Clay Cane is a New York City-based writer who is recognized for his contributions in journalism. Clay is a regular contributor for various print and online publications such as The Advocate and BET.com. He is the author of the highly anticipated novel Ball-Shaped World, which is a fictionalized account of the black and Latino ballroom scene. Also, he is the Entertainment Editor at BET.com and a member of New York Film Critics Online.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Superbowl performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" is a huge accomplishment for any vocalist. Such a compliment that you don't even have to sing it live -- it's normally pre-recorded. Some folks are saying that Christina Aguilera should've lip synched with a fresh wig like everyone else, considering she botched the lyrics. I don't care what anyone says, the girl still has soul. "The Star-Spangled Banner" is a ridiculously hard song to sing and even Whitney Houston at her prime lip synched at the 1991 Superbowl.
There have been some amazing performances but considering it is all about trembling lips and drag-like lip synching, you decide -- who truly lip synched for their life?
Vanessa Williams in 1996
Vanessa, who has seen many of drag queens in her time, is hitting every syllable of "The Star-Spangled Banner"! She doesn't have the powerhouse vocals of a Whitney but her musical theater background shows in this pre-recorded performance.
Cher in 1999
Cher makes no apologies for hating to sing live -- she is a lip synching connoisseur! Nonetheless, the drag icon gives a perfect performance. Plus, the woman behind her is sign languag-ing for her life!
Beyonce in 2004
This was pretty convincing from Bey. Neck rolling, hand movements and a trembling jaw. Go off Bey, go off...
Jennifer Hudson in 2009
This was the comeback performance for Jennifer Hudson and many people were shocked to hear it was lip synched. Ricky Minor, the former musical director for American Idol, confirmed to the Huffington Post that the NFL requires all the singers to submit their track a week before the game.
Whitney Houston in 1991
Nippy went for full blow drama here. The wig, the sweat, the fist in the air and it is considered the greatest performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner." The performance was released as a single and reached the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. I think RuPaul would say, "Sashay you stay!"
As a writer, Langston Hughes is the ultimate. I remember reading his work as a teenager and being so blown away by his voice and style. In some weird way I believed he was speaking directly to me. It was as if he was telling my story.
I later learned that many people felt like Langston spoke to them. He transcended race but still managed to capture the black experience. He wasn't trapped in a box of blackness, but always acknowledged his roots. He once said, "We know we are beautiful. And ugly too." He highlighted the beauty of the black experience, but didn't ignore the ugly.
There has never been another like Langston Hughes and there never will be. But, there is nothing wrong with having Mr. Hughes as the model.
A few months back I was honored to do a photo shoot in the "likeness of Langston Hughes" with photographer Dax Alexander. With styling by Yarnell McCullum and make up by Devon Fraser, we listened toBessie Smith and did our best to capture the essence of Langston.
What a voice. What an original talent. What an incredible songwriter. What a musician.
Teena Marie was a firestorm of soul that no one had ever seen. I vividly remember hearing her music as a kid and while you don't racialize music as a child, I can remember completely ignoring the fact that she was white. As a matter of fact, I can recall seeing her on BET's Video Soul and still thinking of her as black.
Teena's appeal to the black community wasn't inauthentic, it clearly was who she was. She wasn't trying to be anyone but Teena Marie. Nowadays, some artists strive for their "black card" but it's simply for marketing purposes.
I was extremely excited to interview Lady T back in 2006. She was exactly as I thought she would be - down to earth and kind. Also, she asked what songs I liked on her thirteenth solo album Sapphire, which is rare for a celebrity to ask or care what you think of their music. I told her I loved "Romantica" and "You Blow Me Away." She thanked me and her sincerity wasn't something you could pick up in a Q&A interview, but it was there.
I interviewed her again for Congo Square for The Advocate - with some of the interview not making the cut. We talked Christina Aguilera and Janis Joplin, who I always saw a similarity with. On Joplin she told me, "I love Janis. Janis Joplin was an R&B, soul, blues queen. She had an amazing voice and i don't think there has been anyone like her since. She was very much like Etta James to me. Soulful in a really deep soulful way -- much more soul than one body could contain. She was an amazing artist."
Days later, I saw Lady T live in concert in New York City. It was my second time seeing her and she annihilated it - I do remember being upset she didn't sing my favorite "Out On A Limb"!
What's interesting is Teena Marie never abandoned her core audience. She could've easily crossed over to pop, but she stayed right with her R&B roots.
It's always sad to see a legend like her leave us. I'm going to miss Teena Marie. Check out the video I recorded of her singing "Fire & Desire." I love at 4:34 when she sings, "Sometimes I just don't even know my own name!"
Last week I attended Rihanna's sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden. Surprisingly, Rih Rih nailed it. Plus, I forgot how many hits this woman has had. It was great to go to a concert and hear songs that I actually knew the words to for the majority of the show. Unlike some of those difficult artists who refuse to play their hits and say things like, "I'm not a jukebox!" Click below for the review.
The violence continues in Philadelphia. During an early morning house party on July 15th in North Philadelphia there was a shooting at approximately 1:45am, three people were shot including the legendary Philadelphia DJ Randy Flash also known as Randy Miller. Yesterday, Randy Miller died. He was 42 years-old.
According to published reports, the shooters were allegedly teenage boys between the ages of 17 to 20 years-old. Supposedly, they are suspects in a shooting earlier that day. Approximately 30 people were inside the house party when a teenager opened fire, three people were injured.
I remember DJ Randy Flash from my days of the clubs in Philadelphia back in the mid to late nineties. I first met him when he worked at the old school record store Sound of Market in Center City, Philadelphia. He always had such a kind energy with his big smile and passionate love for deep, soulful house music. I would periodically see him in New York City and he always showed me love.
I just saw him about three weeks walking down the street in Manhattan. We were both in a rush and quickly said hello. I am completely blown away that he is gone and that the last time I saw him in New York City -- would be the last time I would see him.
Not to rant in cliches, but it's so true, you never know when a hello, handshake, hug and goodbye will be your last with someone. My sympathies go out to Randy Miller's friends and family. Also, please keep the other two who were injured in your thoughts.
In the image above you will see there is a fundraiser for DJ Randy Flash. For all of my Philly househeads, I hope to see you out there. Below is a link to one of Randy's favorite songs, Carl Bean's "I Was Born This Way."
Rest in peace Randy, I know you are in the highest light.