No, Really? Erykah Badu’s Nude Stroll At JFK Assassination Site Sparks Controversy

Erykah Badu’s “Window Seat” may or may not turn out to be a radio hit, but it certainly is all over the airwaves. Barely 48 hours after she released the NSFW video for the song, it has become a preoccupation for politicians, TV talking heads and critics. Was Erykah’s “striptease” in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza (site of the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy) a display of “poor taste and poor judgement”, as one civic leader put it? Or was it something else entirely? Spoiler alert, for those who haven’t seen the clip yet: after Erykah peels off the last of her clothing, a gunshot rings out and she slumps to the ground. Blue liquid appears to spill from her head, forming the word “groupthink” on the pavement. Erykah’s voice is then heard to say: “They play it safe, are quick to assassinate what they do not understand. They move in packs, ingesting more and more fear with every act of hate on one another.”

Thought-provoking though it might be, Erykah’s message alone might not have attracted much attention from the press. Her choice of video-shoot locations, however, certainly did — the Dallas Morning News reports that local leaders in Dallas (which is also Erykah’s hometown) are up in arms. “I don’t understand how someone who lives here, who is a resident of this city, could do such a thing,” Lindalyn Adams, a civic volunteer who helped restore the historic plaza in the 1980s, told the paper.

Erykah told the Morning News in an interview that she picked the Kennedy assassination site specifically because “the grassy knoll was the most monumental place in Dallas,” and that “I tied it in a way that compared tha assassination to the character assassination one would go through after showing his or her self completely.”

But other critics are calling out Badu, saying the video is just a ploy to sell albums, not a real social commentary. One widely quoted post from the Black Political Thought blog contends: “One would think she would lead by example, especially since she is a parent. The reality is that this woman hasn’t had a hit song in years, so she must be crying out for attention or more money.”

What’s your take? On one hand, it’s impossible to believe that someone as savvy as Erykah Badu wouldn’t know well in advance just how much noise this clip (directed by Coodie and Chike of Creative Control) would create — and she’s smart enough to know it might, directly or not, drive sales of her single or album (New Amerykah Pt. 2: Return Of The Ankh). On the other, it seems downright ridiculous to us that an artist as authentic as Erykah would do this — or much of anything else — for cheap commercial gain.

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