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Protestors Gather Outside VMAs to Call Attention to Newark’s Water Crisis

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  • Activists staged a protest across from the VMAs on Monday to call attention to Newark’s lead-contaminated water crisis.
  • Protesters called the city out for hosting an award show while residents were still without clean water, and some asked for celebrities to use their voice to bring awareness to the issue.
  • Newark has been dealing with the water crisis for three years and on Monday announced plans to replace and repair pipes with the help of a $120 million loan.

Protests Staged Across from VMAs

While the biggest names in the music industry hit the stage in Newark’s Prudential Center for the MTV Video Music Awards on Monday, protestors gathered across the street to call attention to the ongoing water crisis in the New Jersey city.

The demonstration was organized by the Newark Water Coalition. Reports estimate that somewhere between 100 and 200 were in attendance, including both Newark locals and visitors who came to the city for the award show.

Newark has been facing a water crisis for several years now. The city tried to aid 38,000 residents who could be affected by high levels of lead in tap water back in October by giving them filters. A report from early August, however, showed that those filters may not be properly working, prompting the city to have to hand out bottled water. 

Protestors carried signs with messages like “VMAs, are you drinking this water?” and “this is environmental racism.” Many also chanted: “we don’t want no MTV, we want our water clean.”

According to the Newark Department of Public Safety, five people were arrested for attempting to cross police barricades. Other than this, the protests were peaceful and continued without incident.

Newark and Celebrities Called Out

Footage from NJ.com showed one leader of the demonstration calling the city out for hosting the VMA’s while its residents were struggling. 

“People are dying out here,” he said. “And you’ve got the nerve, you’ve got the nerve to have the VMAs in Newark. You’ve got the nerve to have these celebrities come here and not give a damn about the citizens of Newark.” 

Efforts were made to encourage celebrities to acknowledge the Newark water crisis while they were in town. The Newark Water Coalition tweeted at Cardi B, Taylor Swift, Lizzo, and Lil Nas X asking them to use their voices to call attention to it. 

Actress Piper Perabo sent out a tweet with a similar sentiment, suggesting stars bring the topic up both on stage and in interviews with the press.

The story did not make its way to the VMAs stage and big stars remained largely quiet on the matter. Reverend Al Sharpton attended the ceremony and did acknowledge the choice to have the show in a city facing a crisis of this nature. 

“It brings a limelight to a city where not everybody has to say, oh, I didn’t know there was lead in that city,” Sharpton said speaking to CBS New York. “So there’s a silver lining in this dark cloud, but that’s no comfort to those that’s living in the middle of that dark cloud.” 

Others online thought Newark demonstrated poor priorities by giving a venue to the VMA’s.

Some also thought the stars should have felt heavier responsibility to shine a light on the water crisis.

Developments in Newark’s Water Crisis

The protests came as potential strides were made in handling the city’s water crisis. On Monday, the Essex County Improvement Authority announced plans to give a $120 million loan that would be used to replace and repair lead pipes, which would be completed in under three years.

The plan would speed the repair process up greatly. A previous plan would have cost Newark $75 million and taken close to a decade to complete. Residents are still skeptical of the plan, as they have been promised solutions in the past that fell through. Votes by the city and county will take place Tuesday. Another vote is reportedly taking place in September.

See what others are saying: (NJ.com) (CBS New York) (TIME)

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Big Machine Records Denies Taylor Swift’s Claims of Blocking Music Use

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  • Taylor Swift claimed Thursday that her former label Big Machine Records and its executives, Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun, are preventing her from performing her old songs at the upcoming American Music Awards.
  • She also says they are blocking her from using the songs in her Netflix documentary. 
  • Big Machine denied those claims and said Swift owes them millions.
  • Swift’s team hit back, citing an email from Big Machine denying music use and saying it is actually the label that owes her millions for unpaid royalties. 

Swift’s Feud With Big Machine Escalates

Taylor Swift’s former record label is denying the bombshell accusations she made against them Thursday, saying they are preventing her from performing and using her own songs.

Swift posted a lengthy statement about the situation online where she claimed that her former label – Big Machine Records- was preventing her from performing a medley of her hits at the upcoming American Music Awards, where she is set to be honored with the Artist of the Decade Award. 

According to Swift, the label argued that performing her songs on television would constitute re-recording her music before she is legally allowed to in November 2020. 

The singer also added that Netflix has been creating a documentary about her life, but has not been granted permission to user her older music or performance footage for the project. 

She said that Big Machine Lable Group’s CEO Scott Borchetta will only allow her to use the music if she agrees to two conditions: If she agrees to not re-record copycat versions of her old songs next year and if she agrees to stop talking about Borchetta and his business partner Scooter Braun.

“The message being sent to be is very clear,” Swift wrote. “Basically, be a good little girl and shut up. Or you’ll be punished.”

This is not the first time Swift spoke out against Big Machine Lable Group, which was founded by Borchetta and recently acquired by Braun. In June, the singer expressed frustration after learning that her former label had sold to Scooter for $300 million, which meant that he would own all of her master recordings “in perpetuity.”  

She called the news her “worst nightmare” and claimed that Scooter had “incessantly bullied and manipulated” her for years.

After that news, Swift revealed that she plans to re-record her old music when she is legally allowed to do so. 

Thursday’s accusations mark the latest escalation in the feud between her and Big Machine execs. At the end of her recent statement, she encouraged others who might be frustrated by the news to let Borchetta and Braun know how they feel.

She also asks people to reach out to artists that are signed with Braun’s management agency who might be able to “ talk some sense into the men who are exercising tyrannical control over someone who just wants to play the music she wrote.” 

Support for Swift

As of Friday morning, none of Braun’s clients, which include superstars like Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, and Demi Lovato, have commented on the situation. 

However, dozens of other big-name celebs have shown Swift public support. 

Swift’s longtime friend Selena Gomez released a lengthy statement saying felt “sick” over the situation. “You’ve robbed and crushed one of our best song writers of our time an opportunity to celebrate all of her music with fans and the world,” she added.

@SelenaGomez

Singer Halsey also joined in with a message on her Instagram story saying, “This is punishment. This is hoping to silence her from speaking about things by dangling this over her head.” She then went on to post a video of her singing Taylor Swifts song “Mean.”

@iamhalsey

Other statements of support were posted by Stars like model Gigi Hadid, singers Lily Allen, Tinashe, Sara Bareilles, and others. 

Joseph Kahn, who directed Swift videos like “Bad Blood” and “Look What You Made Me Do” called Braun and Borchetta “assholes.” 

He added, “How do they live with themselves?”

Meanwhile, music producer Joel Little, who produced several tracks for Swift including “ME!” and “You Need To Calm Down,“ said the situation was “unbelievable and completely messed up.” 

Big Machine Records Responds 

After a night of backlash, Big Machine issued a statement saying they were “shocked” to see her statement which was “based on false information.” 

“At no point did we say Taylor could not perform on the AMAs or block her Netflix special. In fact, we do not have the right to keep her from performing live anywhere. Since Taylor’s decision to leave Big Machine last fall, we have continued to honor all of her requests to license her catalog to third parties as she promotes her current record in which we do not financially participate.”

“The truth is, Taylor has admitted to contractually owing millions of dollars and multiple assets to our company, which is responsible for 120 hardworking employees who helped build her career,” the statement claimed. 

“We have worked diligently to have a conversation about these matters with Taylor and her team to productively move forward. We started to see progress over the past two weeks and were optimistic as recently as yesterday that this may get resolved. However, despite our persistent efforts to find a private and mutually satisfactory solution, Taylor made a unilateral decision last night to enlist her fanbase in a calculated manner that greatly affects the safety of our employees and their families.

The statement went on to say that Swift created a narrative that “does not exist.” The label also says Swift and her team have not accepted their invitations to speak and blame the “rumors” on a lack of communication. 

Statements from Swifts Team 

After the label’s response, a spokesperson for Swift issues a statement to Rolling Stone, citing an October 28th e-mail from the vice president of rights management and business affairs and Big Machine.  

The letter reportedly said “BMLG will not agree to issue licenses for existing recordings or waivers of its re-recording restrictions in connection with” two projects. Those projects were the Netflix documentary and a recent performance tied to a sales event hosted by the Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba Group.

At the Alibaba event, Swift instead performed three songs from “Lover” after “it was clear that Big Machine Label Group felt any televised performance of catalog songs violated her agreement,” the rep said.   

The rep added that Borchetta himself “flatly denied” the waiver request for both the AMAs and Netflix on Thursday, the same day Swift went public. “Please notice in Big Machine’s statement, they never actually deny either claim Taylor said last night in her post,” the spokesperson added.

Her team also called the claims that Swift owes million to them inaccurate. “Big Machine is trying to deflect and make this about money by saying she owes them but, an independent, professional auditor has determined that Big Machine owes Taylor $7.9 million dollars of unpaid royalties over several years.”

See what others are saying: (Billboard) (Variety) (Rolling Stone)

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Eminem’s Team Addresses Leaked Lyrics About “Siding With Chris Brown” After Rihanna Assault

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  • Last week, a snippet of an unreleased Eminem track leaked online, featuring lyrics like: “Of course I side with Chris Brown, I’d beat a bitch down too…”
  • On Monday, the entire reference track surfaced, prompting Eminem’s team to issue a statement stressing that the lyrics were scrapped and rewritten and that Eminem and Rihanna have a great relationship.
  • Many fans point out that these comments are not out of character for the rapper and are more upset with the recent music leaks instead. 

Unreleased Version of “Things Get Worse” Leaks 

A representative for rapper Eminem issued a statement this week addressing an old unreleased track that recently surfaced, featuring lyrics about Chris Brown’s 2009 assault of Rihanna. 

Last week, a Reddit user posted a seven-second snippet of what seems to be an early version of what would later become B.o.B.’s 2011 track “Things Get Worse.” 

On Monday, the full reference track containing the lyrics also leaked online, according to XXL.

“I’m not playing Rihanna, where’d you get the V.D. at?” Eminem raps in the song. 

“Let me add my two cents/ Of course I side with Chris Brown, I’d beat a bitch down too if she gave my dick an itch now,” he adds. 

According to XXL, the track was recorded during sessions for Eminem’s 2009 album Relapse, which released a few months after Chris Brown was charged with felony assault. 

The lyrics were especially frustrating for some listeners who noted that Rihanna and Eminem have collaborated together on several occasions for songs like “Love the Way You Lie” and “The Monster” in 2010 and 2013.

Eminem’s Team Responds 

After the leaks, Eminem’s spokesperson Dennis Dennehy issued a statement to XXL saying, “This is a leak of something that’s over 10 years old.”

“After Eminem recorded it, he scrapped it, and rewrote it. Obviously he and Rihanna have a great relationship.”

Fans Respond to Music Leaks 

After seeing his team comment on the matter, some fans expressed their frustration with Eminem’s recent music leaks rather than the content itself. 

Late last month, a different controversial song surfaced. That previous leak was of a Joyner Lucas song reportedly titled, “What If I Was Gay?,” which features Eminem rapping from the perspective of a homophobic man. 

One user wrote, “I can’t believe they HAD to explain this. The thing is: stop supporting music piracy, stop buying leaks. Show some respect for your artist. Y’all know how hard Eminem works on his stuff… please, stop.”

Meanwhile, others pointed out that Eminem is knowns for pushing the boundaries with shocking or violent lyrics.

See what others are saying: (XXL) (Variety) (Pitchfork)  

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Chris Evans, Elijah Wood, and Others Speak Out Against James Dean CGI Casting

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  • A CGI version of James Dean has been cast as a secondary lead in the upcoming Vietnam War movie, Finding Jack.
  • The directors and studio received permission from Dean’s family to use his image, however, many do not think it is okay to use an actor in a film posthumously.
  • Stars like Chris Evans and Zelda Williams condemned the use of James Dean in this manner, seeing as there is no way to know if Dean would actually want to be in this movie. This started a widespread online discussion on the practice of using CGI to bring stars who have passed onto screens.

James Dean Cast in Film

Critics are speaking out against James Dean being cast in a movie⁠—60 years after his death. 

Directors Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh are partnering on the film Finding Jack, which is based on a novel of the same name. It will follow a man who is forced to abandon an injured dog he met while serving in Vietnam. The film is being produced by Magic City Films and Dean is set to play the secondary lead in the story.

Dean suffered an untimely death in 1955 after a car accident in northern California at the age of 24. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Dean’s performance will be constructed via “full body” CGI using actual footage and photos. Another actor will voice him.”

Dean’s family gave the studio permission to use his image for the film. 

“We feel very honored that his family supports us and will take every precaution to ensure that his legacy as one of the most epic film stars to date is kept firmly intact,” Ernst said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “The family views this as his fourth movie, a movie he never got to make. We do not intend to let his fans down.”

Ernst also said that they did look at other casting options, but ultimately landed on Dean.

“We searched high and low for the perfect character to portray the role of Rogan, which has some extreme complex character arcs, and after months of research, we decided on James Dean,” he added.

Actors and Others Upset by the News

The concept of casting someone in a film posthumously did not sit well with many in the industry. Zelda Williams, daughter of the late Robin Williams, said it sets an “awful precedent for the future of performance.” In fact, Robin Williams’ family restricted the use of his image for at least 25 years after his death in 2014.

Big-name actors also joined the conversation. Avengers star Chris Evans called the decision “awful.”

Lord of the Rings actor Elijah Wood said, “this shouldn’t be a thing.”

Julie Ann Emery, who has starred in projects like Preacher and Better Call Saul added that it may not give proper credit to the living actor providing Dean’s voice. 

“How do Dean’s descendants know that he would WANT to be in a Vietnam movie?” she later asked. 

Actors were not the only ones upset about this. An article from Vice pleaded “please don’t do this.”

“For the love of all that is holy, just let his legacy be,” it continued. 

Esquire came up with its own suggestions for working actors that would have made a better choice instead of Dean. Their picks ranged from Timothée Chalamet to Harry Styles, to Cardi B and Post Malone, all to say that any living person would be better than a CGI version. 

On the other hand, however, some were not as critical of the choice. While their voices were fewer and farther between, some thought that since his family gave it the okay, it should be allowed. 

Future and Past Instances

According to The Hollywood Reporter’s piece, Ernst might have future plans to use this kind of technology. Magic City will be working with a Canadian group called Imagine Engine and a South African group MOI Worldwide to produce the CGI, and their list extends past James Dean.

“Our partners in South Africa are very excited about this, as this technology would also be employed down the line to re-create historical icons such as Nelson Mandela to tell stories of cultural heritage significance,” he said.

This is also not the first time a late actor has been used on the screen in this way. In 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Peter Cushing, who died two decades before the film’s release, made an appearance as Grand Moff Tarkin via CGI. He originally played the character in Star Wars: A New Hope. When Rogue One hit theaters, his presence caused its own controversy, with some also thinking it was wrong to do this.

See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (Deadline) (Los Angeles Magazine)

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