“My Story” (Jean Grae)

Just like it’s impossible for a trax to encompass a single life (“I’ve actually erased a lot that I’ve been through”), the same goes for a human fetus with the poles reversed. Susan Sherwin contends that a set of feminist ethics shouldn’t be pro-choice in the common sense; rather, it should advocate for women being able to make “truly voluntary choices,” which includes determining the value and meaning of a fetus. As for the first, this would involve an intensive structural critique addressing situations like having to “fuck . . . for rent” or being resigned to “Medicaid fix[ing]” you. (It would entail, in the short term, a rights-based advocacy with a longer view toward the full enfranchisement of women, understood as a category of potentiality.) But what’s a fetus’ potential if it never existed as such? Can it provide enough material for a trax in itself? For Jean Grae’s narrator, a fetus is “divinity” while “mother” is an unmarked and experientially remote status. The fetus represents “another life that almost got close.” That’s a closed narrative already, an anti-utopia premised on disciplining and patterning the murderous self. A choice, then, is only a choice if one’s options include both the manageable and the impossible, or when the voluntary choice is able to entertain unboundedness as one of its orientations.


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“Empower” (Downset)

“Empower” scream hemmed in by slabs of silence: the moment of Butlerian agency that occurs in a loophole/hitch, unanticipated by power. An attempt to “recheck the mind set”–not castigation–without recourse to affect (“can’t give up no love”) or investment in nationalisms (“what’s been dead”). Less a plan than a documentary moment: potential(ity) battles “slips,” faith in representation, and martyrdom.


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“Darn That Dream” (Bill Evans)

Borrowing liberally from Holiday’s phrasing, seemingly, piano and guitar jockey for a way to maintain the “one-track mind” needed to live in hope. Piano’s longing to ascend meets with guitar’s ruminations on the (fleeting, legato) heights. The “nightmare” of non-mutuality sustains the critical project, maintaining the precipice (and inclination) of being as the point of lacerating potentiality.

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“Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” (Doris Day)

Corporate pop music’s 21st century message to young women is easy to parse: (1) you are great just the way you are (you are beautiful, no matter what they say!); and (2) you can achieve anything you desire (you are a firework!). You are an amazing being of unlimited potential–a perfect, undetermined sort capable of perfect choice. This is called “empowerment.” But only three score ago, in the mid-1950s, Doris Day was singing to her young daughter: I don’t know if you’ll be “pretty” or “rich.” Indeed, I know nothing about your future, which is absolutely sealed (both opaque and certain). You may wind up in the gutter, or you may die young. It’s possible that there won’t be a “rainbow” in the sky tomorrow, which tinges the trax with Cold War anxieties (the Soviets had tested their first H-bomb in 1953). The phrase, “que sera sera,” is polyglot, and finds first use in English as a sixteenth century heraldic motto, forecasting, at least, a certain shielded defensiveness.  In short, and “tenderly,” “what will be will be,” and you can’t fight the future. The (tauta)logic is unimpeachable: tomorrow, one can always claim that “what will be” was. At the joining of such faulty realism and our own fantasies of empowerment, however, there must remain fate and chance, entwined, each the condition of the other’s possibility.


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