Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

March 27 2017 1:56 PM

Drake’s More Life Debuts at No. 1 and Breaks His Own Streaming Record

Drake is breaking more records with the release of More Life. In the week following its March 18 release, the album’s songs are estimated to have been streamed 384.8 million times according to Billboard, breaking the record set by Drake’s previous album, Views. Launching with 505,000 album unit sales in total and debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, More Life is easily the biggest new album of 2017 so far and could stand to maintain that title barring any surprise major releases.

More Life didn’t perform as well in traditional album sales, however, with less than half of the units sold accounted for under that metric—a clear reflection of recent industry trends. (This refers to digital downloads only; physical retailers are not yet carrying the album.) More Life is currently second to Ed Sheeran’s Divide in digital sales for 2017, which bowed with more than 300,000 copies sold and is far behind Drake’s own Views, which exceeded 800,000 in its debut. In fact, overall, Views launched with a little more than a million units sold—combining digital sales and streaming—which is nearly double the total of More Life’s reported haul.

Nonetheless, More Life is another huge success for Drake, who has made a habit of shattering music records lately. To close out 2016, he tied Lil Wayne’s Hot 100 record and has shown no signs of slowing down in the months since.

March 27 2017 1:34 PM

Liam Neeson, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Anna Kendrick, and More Audition to Be the New Voice of Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking has used the same iconic computerized voice for more than 30 years, but it’s time for a change. In a video from U.K. charity Comic Relief, Hawking, whose speech is limited due to ALS, held auditions to see who would provide his new voice, a part so coveted that the auditions drew everyone from Stephen Fry to Anna Kendrick to Miss Piggy.

Some celebrities chose to make use of their special talents in their auditions, with Lin-Manuel Miranda rapping and Andrew Lloyd Weber singing a Hawking-themed version of “Memory” from Cats. Others decided to make their case by appealing to the theoretical physicist’s scientific side, with mixed results. “Listen to my voice,” said Liam Neeson, moments before launching into his famous Taken monologue. “It’s deep, it’s sexy, it’s got a tinge of … physics.”

Star Wars star John Boyega had an even more compelling argument. “I feel like I’m the best man for the job. The reason being, I’ve been to space before,” he said. “You talk about space. I’ve lived it.”

But despite the number of eager candidates, Hawking was very selective about who gets to speak for him—even Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne, stars of the actual movie about Hawking’s life, didn’t get the part. And while the acclaimed scientist did manage find a worthy, famous voice in the end (you’ll know it when you hear it), he missed a major opportunity to recruit the most obvious choice: Morgan Freeman. C’mon, Stephen.

March 27 2017 11:56 AM

What Missy Elliot Is Really Saying in “Work It,” According to Karaoke Lyrics

People are freaking out after figuring out what Missy Elliott was actually saying in “Work It.” Don’t believe it? Check out BuzzFeed’s “People Are Freaking Out After Figuring Out What Missy Elliott Was Actually Saying in ‘Work It’” for proof.

Now, a careful reading may reveal that the number of people freaking out over this particular revelation is, not counting replies to the original tweets that make up most of the post, precisely two, which is to say the minimum number necessary to qualify as “people.” But it’s obviously a real phenomenon. Why else would the Huffington Post, Refinery29, Uproxx, and Metro, to name only a few, all be posting more or less the same thing?

It may come as a surprise to learn that “people” are “finally figuring out” something that has been widely known for 15 years, which is that the line after “Put my thing down, flip it and reverse it” is just the same line run backwards—which is to say that Ms. Misdemeanor actually did put her thing down, that thing being the recording of her voice, then flipped it and reversed it. (Technically, both flipping and reversing would be the equivalent of a double negative, but we’ll chalk it up to poetic license and the song being a stone-cold classic.) Every generation gets the chance to discover things for themselves, but “Young People Learn Thing People Older Than Them Have Known for a Long Time” isn’t the most click-inducing of headlines.

More to the point, how is one to proceed with this information, especially in that most pertinent of arenas: doing karaoke in a crowded bar on a Saturday night? Should knowing what Missy is actually saying change your approach, or should you continue to go at those mystery bars like you're cosplaying  Twin Peaks’ Man From Another Place? To settle this nettlesome question, we turned to the most authoritative of sources: karaoke lyrics videos.

Our first example straight-up punts, simply writing “backwards 2x” in lieu of actual lyrics. That’s better than the one that just writes “Put my thing down ...” twice, which is some amateur-hour, my-friends-made-me-come-up-here ish, but either way, the aspiring karaokist is left to his or her own devices.

Ws start to make progress with this karaoke lyrics video, which renders the lyric as “Fwod pilf ti dan esrever ti/ I tup ym gnith,” although it makes the mistake of reversing each word individually, and for some reason seems to think that “down” backwards is “fwod.” (Genius writes the lyrics as “Ti esrever dna ti pilf, nwod gniht ym tup.”) But while this version makes it clear where the line comes from, it doesn’t sound anything like the song, because the process involves reversing Elliott’s phonemes and not the letters in the words themselves.

For true karaoke guidance, then, turn here:


“It’s your femme neppa venette” doesn’t quite nail the whoosh of Elliott’s reversed voice, but it’s fairly close, enough to impress a room full of strangers waiting for their chance to butcher “Sweet Caroline.” Of course, it does open up a whole different line of questions about whether Missy is really, really saying “Barely assist Venice” in Norwegian, but that’s an internet freakout for another time.

March 27 2017 11:01 AM

S Is for Sia Singing About Songs on Sesame Street

S is for Sia, Sesame Street, singing, and “Smile while you watch this very fun video that incorporates all those things I just mentioned.” The multihyphenate pop star–songwriter–music producer can now add “Sesame Street musical guest star” to her CV, joining a very respectable club that includes the likes of Feist, John Legend, and Stevie Wonder. Sia appeared on the children’s television show to introduce the letter S in a lively music video that sees Elmo, Cookie Monster and more dance around her as she expresses her love of music: “S is for songs, and I love songs/ Don’t know what we’d do without ’em/ I love songs so much I wanna sing a song about ’em.”

The video shows more of Sia’s usually obscured face than we’re used to seeing in recent years, with only a red clown nose concealing her as she sings about “jazzy songs and funky songs/ Get-up-and-dance-like-a-monkey songs.” But even with her bangs raised, her signature wig was ever-present—and the Muppets even got to wear matching ones.

Read more in Slate:

March 27 2017 10:05 AM

The Casting JonBenet Trailer Hints at a Hybrid Approach to a Decades-Long Mystery

Netflix is gearing up for the release of Casting JonBenet, a hybrid documentary from Kitty Green that revisits the infamous 1996 murder of JonBenét Ramsey in Boulder, Colorado. In the genre-bending film, Green returns to Boulder and enlists local residents to audition for key roles in the Ramsey family, capturing their attempts to get into character—and their passing thoughts on the long-passed case—while also filming re-enactments of pivotal moments from before and after Ramsey’s death. The result looks like an engrossing reconstruction of events that mixes commentary with performance, investigation with interpretation.

The film premiered to a rapturous response at the Sundance Film Festival in January, praised for its innovative and unconventional approach to the small-town mystery. Indeed, if it lives up to the hype, this could be Netflix’s newest true-crime phenomenon, a more literal approach to Making a Murderer. We’ll find out when Casting JonBenet begins streaming on April 28.

March 27 2017 7:33 AM

How Nicole Kidman, David E. Kelley, and Others Prepared for Big Little Lies’ Domestic Violence Story Line

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Nicole Kidman is having a hard time shaking her Big Little Lies character. Nine months after production ended, the Oscar winner and first-time TV star’s voice quavers when discussing the filming of Celeste’s violent and highly sexual marriage to Perry (Alexander Skarsgård). “I feel weird talking about it,” she says over the phone from the Philadelphia set of Untouchable. “I’m not comfortable because I feel like I want the work to speak for itself, and I don’t like dissecting it too much. It’s one of the hardest roles I’ve had to talk about because I’m still very raw about it. It’s weird.”

Not when you consider the intensity of Celeste and Perry’s story line. From controlling Celeste’s schedule to pushing her around, grabbing her forcefully, and beating her, Perry is a classic abuser. And yet Celeste is, on some level, addicted to her husband’s rage and the sexual energy it unleashes between them, adding gray areas to an alarming domestic situation not usually examined in this way on television.

March 26 2017 10:55 PM

A Look Back: Here’s How the Trailer for Justice League Was Originally Advertised

It’s hard to remember it now, but in the days before its Mar. 25 release, no one knew exactly what the first trailer for Justice League would look like—including, it seems, the people Warner Bros. hired to cut the trailers for the trailer! When the promotional campaign for the Justice League trailer began, the studio’s marketing department—working from very limited approved footage from the trailer to use in the trailer for the trailer—was faced with the difficult task of selling audiences on the trailer for Justice League without spoiling any of its secrets. So how did Warner Bros. pull it off? To answer this question, we’ve dug up all of the original trailers used by Warner Bros. way back on Mar. 23 and Mar. 24. It’s an extraordinary series of trailers for trailers for a superhero movie that, taken as a franchise, rivals legendary one-off trailers for trailers like the Apr. 6, 2016, teaser trailer for the teaser trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. So forget everything you know about the trailer for Justice League, set the Wayback Machine for Mar. 23, 2017, and take a look at the very first glimpses audiences got of the trailer that, in many ways, defined the aesthetic for superhero movie trailers for the entire weekend of Mar. 25 and Mar. 26.

March 26 2017 5:50 PM

Aaron Sorkin Shocked to Discover Hollywood Might Not Be a Gender- and Race-Blind Meritocracy

In a scene that could have come straight from an Aaron Sorkin show, a middle-aged white guy had a revelation onstage at a Q&A on Saturday. The name of that middle-aged white guy? Aaron Sorkin. According to Variety, Sorkin, appearing at the Writers Guild Festival at the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study in Los Angeles, was shocked, shocked to discover that Hollywood has a problem with diversity. The Academy Award–winning screenwriter behind The Newsroom reportedly reacted with disbelief when asked about the challenges women and people of color face in the film industry.

“Are you saying that women and minorities have a more difficult time getting their stuff read than white men and you’re also saying that [white men] get to make mediocre movies and can continue on?” the creator of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip asked the audience, apparently rhetorically. He then went on to claim ignorance of Hollywood’s diversity problem, and it seems the word meritocracy was used, since moderator Elvis Mitchell suggested he’d confused the word with meretricious. “You’re saying that if you’re a woman or person of color, you have to hit it out of the park in order to have another chance?” Sorkin later added.

March 25 2017 11:30 PM

A Vermont Dairy Farm and Museum Has Successfully Baited Nintendo Into a Cow-Milking Contest

The Billings Farm and Museum, a working dairy farm and agricultural museum in Woodstock, Vermont, has successfully challenged Nintendo to compete against them in some manner of cow-milking contest, Polygon reports. At issue was a cow-milking minigame in 1-2 Switch, a game for the Nintendo’s newest console, the Nintendo Switch. In an open letter posted on their Facebook page, the museum wrote that the game takes “all the challenge out of milking,” explaining to the video game manufacturer that “we have 30 prize-winning Jersey milking cows that we milk twice a day, and it is NEVER that easy.” The museum’s workers have apparently carefully studied the motivational techniques of Biff Tannen, because the goading is strong: “We also think that you guys look pretty slow,” the irascible dairy farmers added, before going on to ask Nintendo, “Is your team brave enough?”

Apparently Nintendo has more in common with Marty McFly than a crappy video game adaptation, because it accepted the Vermont farmers’ challenge from its official Facebook account six minutes after it was sent. The trash talk didn’t stop there; the museum, where they seem to know more about cows than Nintendo’s 19th-century origins as a playing card company, responded, “Good luck! We’ve been at this over a 100 years.” “So have we!” Nintendo retorted. According to Polygon, Nintendo has confirmed that it’s sending people to the Billings Farm & Museum this week—although it’s unclear whether they’re visiting to plan future cow-milking competitions or grabbing the bull by the horns, so to speak. Either way, we wish Nintendo and the Billings Farm and Museum the best of luck in their upcoming faceoff: As far as we’re concerned, you’re both winners. Incidentally, we here at Slate hear Nintendo is too chicken to send our entire staff free Switches.

Here’s the complete open letter:

March 25 2017 6:12 PM

Move Fast and Break Things: 106 Years of Disruptive Innovation at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company

The first thing founders Isaac Harris and Max Blanck want you to get right about their business, as they recently explained over phosphate and sodas, is the name: It’s the Triangle Waist Company, not the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. But as other industry-defining titans have since discovered—Federal Express, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Blackwater—if you build an organization that earns worldwide name recognition, quibbling with the public over the little details is a losing battle. And no company has ever been as synonymous with shirtwaists as Harris and Blanck’s scrappy little enterprise, no matter what name is on the official letterhead. On Saturday, the Triangle Shirtwaist Company (sorry, boys!) marked its 106th year in the public eye—more than a century in which Harris and Blanck’s bold and disruptive innovations have served as a blazing torch lighting the way forward for American business leaders.

The shirtwaist industry was a staid, conservative affair when Harris and Blanck arrived on the scene with a simple, revolutionary question: “Shouldn’t work be exciting?” That sense of excitement began with the company’s greatest resource: its employees. Lots of employers pay lip service to diversity, but Triangle practiced what it preached, actively recruiting women and recent immigrants from day one, a powerful (if implicit) rebuke of the divisive tactics of the Trump administration. The results speak for themselves: a creative, flexible workforce (70 percent female!) whose diverse perspectives helped nurture the first sparks of innovation into a self-sustaining conflagration of fun and profit.