Though it may no longer be February, the celebration of Black History Month continues on as the Index staff offers up some of their favorite tracks from Black musicians pushing the boundaries in the industry…
Frankie Knuckles – “The Whistle Song”
In the early 1980s, the ashes of disco fused with the newly-popularized drum machine to create a wholly new genre of music. At the center of creation was The Warehouse, a club frequented by Black gay men in Detroit. The music from that club–unapologetically sexual, too long for 7-inch vinyl singles, and fire-forged on the dance floor of The Warehouse–was simply shortened to “house” music.
You know the story from there.
Without prominent Warehouse DJ Frankie Knuckles’ work, electronic music would not exist as it does today. But his music is more than his pedigree. “The Whistle Song” is an immaculate vibe, a free-flowing being that wears its age-born production restrictions with pride. “The Whistle Song” doesn’t care about what you think of it–but that’s absolutely what helps make it and the work of other early Black house musicians like Marshall Jefferson stand as more than a history lesson. — Quint Iverson
“Black Like Me” – Mickey Guyton
Just like rock and roll, country music was stolen, made to be more palatable to white listeners, and now the representation of Black artists within it is abysmally small. Look at the country charts any given week and it’s near impossible to spot any artists of color in the mix. In fact, for the past month, the number one spot has been held by Morgan Wallen, who faced backlash when a video of him screaming the N-word surfaced online. Racism is deeply rooted within country music, and that’s why a song like Mickey Guyton’s “Black Like Me” is so powerful. Not only is it a portrait of a woman of color at the top of her class in songwriting and vocal performance, but with it, Guyton has created something bigger than a song itself: a cultural shift, taking back the genre to tell her own story–of what it means to be Black in America. — Bren Swogger
“Juice” – Lizzo
With her music being played on popular radio stations, Lizzo has become a shining icon for women on how to love themselves for who they are and to not compare themselves to societal standards. Combining R&B, hip-hop, and gospel to create her own style that sometimes even includes segments of her masterfully playing the flute, Lizzo tackles so many complex topics in her music from sexuality to race to body positivity. She makes these topics easy to talk about by adding humor but also doesn’t hide or sugarcoat her messages. “Juice” has a powerful message of self-love and self-worth, with lyrics like “I’m like Chardonnay, get better over time.” — Grace Alexandria
Quint Iverson is a rising senior at Pacific University, taking a leave of absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is a major in Film and Journalism who enjoys writing about arts and entertainment.
Grace Alexandria is a sophomore at Pacific University majoring in Creative Writing and Graphic Design. She’s originally from Hillsboro, OR but currently lives in Stayton, OR. She also works for Marketing & Communications and the Berglund Center at Pacific.
Bren Swogger is a journalism major at Pacific University Class of 2021. They currently live in Oregon City, OR. They are the creator of Indie/Alt Magazine, and also write for Vortex Music Magazine in Portland.