Defend Your Ballot: Caitlin White, Pazz and Jop 2012 Contributor


You can’t really know where you’re headed unless you know where you’ve been. For that reason, we’re taking a look back at Pazz & Jop 2012 to drill down into the ballots of contributors and voters who participated. Maybe amongst the rubble we’ll find clues about what lies ahead for music lovers in 2013. Here, music writer Caitlin White defends her ballot.

See Also:
Pazz and Jop 2012 Table of Contents

Caitlin White, are you ready to DEFEND YOUR BALLOT???

I have prepared to the best of my abilities and yes, I do believe I am ready.

Tell us who you are, where you work, who you write for and why we should trust you.

I’m Caitlin White, currently an Editorial Assistant at AOL Music but in the process of transitioning to Complex to be an EA for their site Pigeons & Planes. I also sometimes write for Noisey Music because Drew Millard lets me. You should trust me because I cry over a song at least once a day.

What song has made you cry today?

It’s a song called “Queen Feel” off this EP of the same name. R&B grooves mixed with dubstep drops and the perfect mix of swag and ch’i in her confidence.

Are most of these music tears you’re spilling joy- or sadness-based?

I think that the most compelling music transcends binaries. It’s more of a realization of life — both joy and sadness are mixed in that revelation. In the present moment this song gives me joy, but in the future it could definitely bring me to tears of sadness. I think that’s the beauty of music, it’s malleable based on the specific person’s lens of listening.

That’s a long way of saying “I’m very emo.”

I’m very practiced at the art of explaining emo-ness in intellectual terms.

But it makes sense, given your top 10 singles and albums. Lots of FEELINGS up in those songs and albums. Dirty Projectors, Frank Ocean, Purity Ring, Bat For Lashes. How does Kendrick Lamar fit in with those? Or is the beauty of it that he doesn’t?

Oh I think Kendrick fits in there perfectly. That song is about how other people have the capability of transforming our feelings, often in ways that are negative and unwanted. But I think one of the strongest things about Kendrick’s album is the level of emotion he’s willing to share with the listeners. These aren’t club bangers or sexed-up audio stripteases — they’re mementos of his life and thoughts. That is where songs like “Backseat Freestyle” get their power — it has raw emotion and naked want alongside the braggart rapper motif.

Not sure if you read Dan Weiss’ “Defend Your Ballot,” but in it he says if Kendrick didn’t rap about guns none of us would be paying attention to him. Thoughts?

Well, I will just have to say I think that piece is motivated by a lot of things… but I disagree strongly.

That is your right as a God-fearing American citizen.

Forever and ever, amen.

This might be too personal, but let’s talk about “Pussy Is Mine” by Miguel, whose album Kaleidoscope Dream made your list. Is that song romantic or gross?

I love that song! I have been discussing this with my friends ever since that song came out, because I think Miguel does something very interesting on it. He assumes a stance that is usually reserved for the feminine role in relationships in a lot of ways. In the song, the girl that he is with seems to have all the power and he is unsure of his position with her. He doesn’t know if she’s out with other people or intimately involved with them, and he’s not afraid to admit how much that would hurt him. Sure, he’s using the word “pussy” as a synecdoche for their relationship, but his vulnerability in that song is astonishing. I think a lot of the undertones in that song have been overshadowed by the use of the word “pussy,” as it is still deemed explicit. I kind of think he did that knowingly, to cover up his vulnerability a little bit… and he also includes the part from the studio about the producers ad-libbing like “what is he doing?” and at the end he plays off the ENTIRE song like he didn’t even know it was recording. A lot of interesting things going on in that song aside from the taboo word he chose.

See Also:
Miguel Is Living The Dream

That’s an interesting perspective. So you don’t see it at all as some sexist ownership power play? Isn’t he basically saying, “Look, we’re adults, and I know you’ve been with other people because DUH. But you and your bad word part, they is belong to me now.

No, if anything I see it as a subversion of gender norms. Like in our society we imagine that the girl is the one sitting at home hoping for monogamy. Or, even that sexual pasts would be bothersome and sad to think about in the context of the current relationship. From my perspective, the song implies that Miguel isn’t sure if she’s as into this relationship as he is, that she could still be out playing the field while all he wants is to be exclusive. This is still a fairly rare perspective. And let me also just say it’s about fucking time that the word “pussy” be as equally as accepted as “dick.” I mean everyone assumes this song is offensive to women, but I found it empowering that he managed to use that word in the hook for a song that is certainly romantic, and not possessive or mansplained tripe.

Have you seen Miguel? He’s GORGEOUS. But I guess the beautiful people feel unsure or insecure sometimes too. Speaking of beautiful people, Solange Knowles.


Exactly. Did TEAM SOLANGE even exist a year or so ago? 2012 really seemed to be the year folks stopped dismissing her as Beyonce’s less talented, less popular lil sis and really started paying attention. Why do you think that is?

Well, I think it was two fold. I think that Solange stopped seeing herself as Beyonce’s little sister and began to embrace her own identity. I have a little sister too and we are quite close and into the same things, and she rules. But for a long time just because I was older and a little bit more driven, I was the only one who got recognition for things. When she finally separated herself from me a little bit and pursued her own interests then she started kicking so much ass. Same thing is going on with Solange in my mind. Also Dev Hynes. I mean, the job of a producer is to get the things out of the artist that the artist can only sketch — producers paint. He clearly did a lot of painting on the EP and it just worked. Producers should bring out the things that artists believe or think are possible, but are scared don’t exist. He definitely did that for her.

See Also:
Pazz and Jop 2012: Top Albums
Pazz and Jop 2012: Top Singles
Pazz and Jop 2012: Critics’ Ballots
Pazz and Jop 2012 Table of Contents


Do you believe music writers should know Brandy deep cuts before they write articles about r&b artists?

I think I have a really interesting perspective on this dilemma because I only started listening — like really listening — to rap, hip-hop & r&b like maybe last September. I started because I had to cover it for work and I had never felt like it was a genre that could “belong” to me before. I obviously fell head over heels for the stuff because this genre of music is probably the one that is shifting and progressing the most still at this point because it is still one of the newest. I can’t even name a Brandy track. That irks me, and I’m working on it. I think respect and research is important. Extensive knowledge has to be built and a lot of writers are young and we’re all under intense deadlines and in a rush. But trying to set rules about who can write and about what is a tricky concept — especially because it is this kind of thinking and mindset that kept me away from R&B and rap for so long.

Last September! Wow! Gotta send you some 100 Percent Ginuwine .

Please send all your r&b reinforcements. I have years to make up for. Decades!

Let’s talk about rap. And– hell, why not– dicks. Specifically, Kendrick Lamar’s dick. You wrote a piece about it (“A Feminist Celebration of Kendrick Lamar’s Dick”), and by virtue of that fact probably thought about it more than most. What can you tell us about Kendrick Lamar’s dick we don’t already know?

I think the important thing about Kendrick Lamar’s dick is that he is confident in its appeal. We don’t really see the sort of wishy-washy longing from Lamar that say, Miguel is going on about. Kendrick is here, he’s DTF, and even if he comes too quick it’s just because your ass is too fine. Like how can a girl get THAT mad at that? I mean clearly if it kept being a problem then there’d need to be a conversation. But it seems like sex is really Kendrick’s one vice at this point — he doesn’t really do drugs and he doesn’t drink — so the one thing that distracts him from the monotony of IRL boredom is sex. I think he strikes a really good balance of talking about sex with enthusiasm and passion and not necessarily falling into the misogynistic patterns that a lot of rap can and has in the past. It’s not like he’s embarrassingly prude but I think he rarely raps about women as sex objects but more as people that he really wants to have sex WITH… it always feels like the woman is present in the process somehow and not passively just there to be “fucked” by him. I don’t know if you can print that.

We can totes print that. Have you seen the video for “Backseat Freestyle”?

I did watch it.

You don’t think the woman bouncing her ass in it are being objectified?

Dude, do you see that girl? She is not an object. She is clearly a powerful force. She’s bouncing her ass because she wants to. She enjoys it. That is more feminist than Maureen Dowd. I think in some ways, feminism has been appropriated to disallow women from participating in and enjoying sexual things. I dislike and disagree with thinking that runs along those lines.


Also like to point out that watching that girl move confirms that Kendrick is probably actually really good at sex and was just overwhelmed in that moment. Shout out to Kendrick’s stamina.

Kendrick’s dream is much different than Martin’s dream.

I’m not sure if they’re really that different though! Money and power is a crude way to put it, but, it’s like I wrote, the fact that Kendrick can gain those things through artistic expression of his life experience is awesome. And I believe MLK Jr. would’ve liked to listen to Kendrick.

He would’ve totally dug this new Endless Boogie record.


Last thing, combining two of your favorites. Have you seen Dirty Projectors’ cover of Usher’s “Climax”?

Haha yes, it was such a good day in my life. There was definitely a “Cait ducking into the bathroom to cry” moment that day. That song is sadness though. From your earlier question, that song is 100% about sadness to me.

I’m crying just thinking about it.

I think this is the thing that appeals to me so much about r&b because, once again, sex is used as a metaphor. Everyone says R&B is just about sex, and in a lot of ways that isn’t true, because these artists are using sexual experiences as a jumping off point to talk about other, deeper things too.

That could be true in some instances, but I’m also quite certain all of, say, R. Kelly’s sex metaphors are just about sex. “Sex Planet.” “Sex Weed.” “Sex in the Kitchen.” “Half on a Baby.” “Slow Wind.” “The Zoo.” “Remote Control” (the song about his dick being a remote control). “Double Up.” “The Greatest Sex.” Those songs are about S-E-X and S-E-X O-N-L-Y. Not that there’s a goddamn thing wrong with that.

Kellz is a master though and also addresses a myriad of other topics. But yes, songs that are just about sex are good too!

Oh, for sure.

Rock has never really figured out how to pull that off.

We’ve worked really blue here today, and I’m actually quite OK with that. Any early predictions for Pazz & Jop 2013?

Yes. Widowspeak. Their new album is incredible. Someone actually sent it to me at the end of last year and said “this record was made for you to love” and they were right. But I think others will love it too. I think it deftly shuts down those who claim that rock is over and guitar music is dead. Also, I just interviewed BJ the Chicago Kid yesterday, and if he releases his major label debut this year I predict it will, as the kids say, pop off.

Fuckin’ kids. Thanks so much for your time and insight, Caitlin White. You have successfully Defend(ed) Your Ballot. May the days ahead be filled with many a music-inspired tear.

Thanks so much for asking me! So happy I could tell you my thoughts on slang words for genitalia while we were at it.

See Also:
Pazz and Jop 2012: Top Albums
Pazz and Jop 2012: Top Singles
Pazz and Jop 2012: Critics’ Ballots
Pazz and Jop 2012 Table of Contents

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