SAINT HERON REIMAGINED
Solange’s Saint Heron compilation was one of this year’s biggest disappointments to me - in light of her on-point commentary about R&B being shaped by people who aren’t all that versed in it, I wasn’t enthused by its narrow scope and reliance on scare-tildes futurism over actually decent songs. And as an original member of the Cult of Cassie back in 2006-07, neither am I excited that her vocal influence seems to be outstripping her commercial relevance: the point at which her icy coo started sounding redundant rather than fresh has long passed even for her, let alone a wave of mannered imitators.
More to the point, I thought Saint Heron was a huge missed opportunity to showcase some of the most overlooked R&B of the year. This is what my track list would have looked like:
Shuanise - Mercy
Tiffany Evans - 143 (I Love You)
Amel Larrieux - I Do Take
Sevyn Streeter - It Won’t Stop
Jade Alston - I Try
Lea-Anna - Find My Love
King - In The Meantime
Tweet - Day Dreaming
Quadron - Hey Love
Kelis - Jerk Ribs
Fantasia ft. Kelly Rowland & Missy Elliott - Without Me
Melanie Fiona - Cold Piece
K. Michelle - Sometimes
Shanell - Catch Me At The Light
Dawn Richard - 
with the benefit of like 13 years’ hindsight though, can’t we all agree that 17-year-old pop princess britney spears not being able to find satisfaction is a million times more justifiable and sympathetic than [some age idc] rawk dewd mick jagger not being able to find satisfaction
what has mick jagger ever had to put up with that was as irritating as that girl coming on tv telling him how tight his skirt should be, hmmmm?
Great British Bake Off
So, I’ve been watching this. I don’t think I ever envisaged being gripped by a programme I’d assumed was emblematic of the Keep Calm And Suffocate Yourselves In Twee Nostalgia malaise that grips the UK in 2013. I wasn’t wrong about that, exactly - the sheer amount of cunting bunting on display still elicits a sense of shame in me. It’s just slightly different when you have a boyfriend who’s baking along to it: I type this with the smug air of someone who has been cooked four separate* pies in the past week. And my litmus test for pop cultural events tends to be how well hardcore fans take to them: if people who are passionate and knowledgeable about baking are fans, it’s legitimised in my eyes.
WHY AM I SEEING SUCH NONSENSE WRITTEN ABOUT RUBY THOUGH? The small-minded judgmentalism of the British press and public is more annoying than any cosily genteel glow from the programme itself could ever be. The former - led, naturally, by the Daily Mail - seems to be hell-bent on pushing the narrative that Ruby, the ex-model and youngest semi-finalist, and Paul, the middle-aged co-judge, are engaged in some sort of obvious flirtation that results her her bakes being favoured over those of her competitors. This is based on literally no evidence (apart from “he looked at her with his eyes” and “she looked at him with her eyes”). This country’s approach to gossip is truly that of a slow-minded, unimaginative 10-year-old clinging desperately on to stereotyped gender roles for dear life: all pretty young women must be defined by how they use their ~feminine wiles; all men must be helpless in the face of said wiles. (If either judge has a soft spot for Ruby, it’s clearly Mary - who has mentioned the student’s lack of impressive baking equipment a couple of times now.)
There’s no evidence of any supposed favouritism, either - it seems like a lot of viewers have forgotten that we can’t actually taste any of the bakes. As for Ruby’s divisive personality - if this mild level of self-deprecation is so offensive, I dread to think how her critics cope with the wide range of personalities they encounter in everyday life. They’d hate me if I was ever on TV, that’s for sure. It’s telling that fellow semi-finalist Kimberley is simultaneously criticised for being overly confident or even “smug” whenever she dares to think her recipe is going well. Is it also telling that Kimberley and Ruby, who have received the lion’s share of these public critiques, are both young black women? HMMMM.
It comes down once again to my conviction that the word “likeability”, like “entrepreneur”, is absolute poison to our cultural discourse. It’s nebulous enough to pass under the radar even when constantly trotted out as something people in the public eye “need” to be, but 90% of the time it’s a poor disguise for telling people - especially women and minorities - to know their place and stick to what’s deemed acceptable. Several of the male contestants have been as self-critical as Ruby has; not one has been called out to the extent that she has.
As for the actual contest: I’m personally rooting for Kimberley. Her recipes have elicited the most attempts to reach into the TV and lift food directly out of the screen on my part, and it’s apparent that she has a real gift for flavours - and the confidence to parlay this into a baking-related career. Her mistakes have tended to be minor technical ones, possibly down to the tight time limits. Ruby seems to be gifted in a similar way, but her talent is much more raw - I predict that her messy approach to presentation will be her undoing in the final stages. Beca is a genuinely fun screen presence, the epitome of someone who passes the “would go for a pint with her” test, and I expect she’s a wonderful home cook - but she also seems to have got to the semi-final by delivering a reliably B+ standard every time out rather than transcending herself. As for Frances, she seemed to have been the only semi-finalist improving week on week, until her quarter-final setback.
*spinach and feta filo pie, fish pie (with four types of fish), key lime pie, goat’s cheese and caramelised onion puff pastry tarts