The Art of 'Shade'...
(credit for the above photo goes to Patti La Helle's 'Got 2B Real' series)
What springs to mind when someone utters the word 'shade'? Is it a definition, or perhaps examples that spring to mind? Either way, shade is a term that has become one of the most often used on popular music blogs, sites and social networks such as Twitter. This article intends to explore the truth behind shade and its different forms, as well as the art itself.
First, it is important to state that there is indeed an art to 'shading'. Anyone can insult, denigrate or criticise a thing, person or place. It takes a certain skill to do so with enough finesse to have a statement or action correctly deemed a 'shady' one. Regardless of what some claim, wit is a prerequisite for shade and this leads on to the first point:
All shade is insulting, but not all insults are 'shade'.
Allow us to provide an example:
Person #1: 'You're ugly as f**k.'Shade:
Bessie Braddock: 'Sir, you are drunk.'
Winston Churchill (Wartime Prime Minister of England): 'Madam, you are ugly. In the morning, I shall be sober.'Though both inform an individual of their physical unattractiveness directly, it is clear that there is a difference in the two. While person #1 stated outright that their opponent was homely (the insult), Churchill went further. He acknowledged his impropriety, then continued on to drive his first point home in an implicit manner that meant the listener had to mentally finish off the insult themselves. It was witty, well thought out, well-executed and insulting. Hence, shade.
Implicit shade is where an individual's statement is one of implication. Hence, the insult is often one has to deduce for oneself, including a layer of wit necessary for it to be deemed 'shade'. One such example can be found in William Faulkner's words on fellow Ernest Hemingway:
'He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary'Faulkner implied that Hemingway was simple and stupid and managed to insult his work at the same time, as well as being witty and succinct. Such an achievement is one that exemplifies shade at its best (or at its worst, depending on which side of the table you're sitting on).
But it isn't only early twentieth century writers that knew how to shade with the best of them. Queen of Pop Madonna is someone who seems to have perfected the art of implicit shade. Take her recent rehearsal in Tel Aviv as an example. Midway through a run of her hit 'Express Yourself', Madonna transitioned straight into rival Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way' without comment in a clear attempt to draw attention the alleged musical similarities. Such an act (because implicit shade is often acted rather than said) is an example of artfully implicit shade.
Pop star Rihanna is another individual who, in recent years, has become known for her ability to shade, taking to her twitter account to address unfounded rumours and those she feels have disrespected her. Take the argument she had with performer Ciara on Twitter early last year. After Ciara aired their dirty laundry out for the world to see on Fashion Police (somewhat poetically), Rihanna took to Twitter to address the issue and, after a few heated exchanges, said the following:
'Good luck booking that stage you speak of...'With their rapt audience already having prior knowledge of Ciara's lack of notable success in recent years, it made for a comment worthy of the shadiest of stans. Rather than stating outright that Ciara couldn't book an arena (or even a theatre, for that matter), Rihanna chose to state it implicitly and succinctly - in keeping with the art of shade.
It is impossible to discuss implicit shade (and 'shade' itself) without mentioning the infamous Patti La Helle. The Youtube personality has risen to internet fame over the last year due to the shady exchanges in her witty and hilarious parody videos. It is entirely possible to wax lyrical over the way in which she has perfected the art of shade and showcased it so well, but allow us to use just one example.
In one of the most recent episodes of the hit show 'Got 2B Real', Christina Aguilera made a 'guest appearance', only for Beyoncé (a long-time cast member) to ask 'Jessica Simpson still pregnant'. Such a statement is an example of implicit shade, with the audience having to infer the insult, rather than have it laid out for them.
Indirect shade is slightly different. While it is entirely possible for a statement to be both implicitly and indirectly shady, often many choose to only take the indirect route.
Indirect shade is when person #1 makes a statement about person #2 without directly mentioning them. Often it relies on the listener or audience having prior knowledge of the person in question, with person #1 having made it clear through the mention of an action, occupation or individual often associated with person #2.
Someone who specialises in shade (implicit, indirect and explicit) is the legendary Mariah Carey. There are countless instances where Mariah has demonstrated this, but allow us to single out just one example. In 2011, when asked about her and Nick Cannon's relationship, she discussed how they both 'make each other mad' at times and went on to say:
'(that's called a relationship' - Gayle King) '
'That's called why we're not divorced after 4 months...' - MariahSaid in the weeks after Kim Kardashian's now infamous 72-day marriage came to an end, Mariah's statement alone was one of the most effective examples of indirect shade. But it was the faux innocent smile and 'What? What did I say?' after it that hammered the shade home.
Another brilliant example of indirect shade also has to be Mariah's hit song 'Obsessed'. Allegedly addressing her non-relationship with rapper Eminem, Mariah never directly mentions him by name, choosing instead to rely on the audience's knowledge of their history in the press.
Once again, Mariah made use of her trademark wit, making comparisons between herself and Eminem that were the very essence of the 'art of shade'. Below is just one example:
'You're a mom-and-pop, I'm a corporation/I'm the press conference, you a conversation...'Another song where indirect (and implicit) shade were sprinkled throughout the verses is Beyoncé's 'Diva'. A clear case of shots being fired at almost every female artist in the industry, here are just a few of the best lines:
'How you gon' be talkin' shit, you act like I just got up in it/been the number one diva in this game for a minute...'
'Take it to another level, no passengers on my plane...'Without mentioning anyone by name, Beyoncé was clearly directing her statements at all those who had doubted her success during her extended break before the release of multi-platinum 'I Am... Sasha Fierce'. The implication that every other female artist was beneath her -- without explicitly stating it - is an example of indirect shade at its finest.
Unlike implicit and indirect shade, explicit shade does not require the reader or audience to infer the insult for themselves. Rather, as it cannot rely on that, its effectiveness lies in how wittily the insult or comment is delivered.
Take the legendary late Whitney Houston, for example. It is also impossible to discuss the art of shade without mentioning The Voice, with 'Nippy' being responsible for the infamous statement:
'I want to see the receipts', the quote that launched a thousand pale imitations. Despite the many instances where Whitney shaded seemingly effortlessly, allow us to use only one: that of when Whitney was on the promo trail for 'Waiting to Exhale' and was asked about her then-husband's trip to rehab. The diva simply answered:
'It's still none of your business. Still.'The repeated 'still' and classy smile were what made that comment explicitly shady, and went beyond being a mere 'insult'.
Famed writer and poet Oscar Wilde was another individual renowned for his witty repartee and ability to shade most artfully (implicitly, explicitly and indirectly). Once again, there is a plethora of quotes to choose from, but just enjoy those below:
'He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.
'Can't make out how you stand London Society. The thing has gone to the dogs, a lot of damned nobodies talking about nothing.'
'... a perfect saint amongst women, but so dreadfully dowdy that she reminded me of a badly bound hymn-book'
'She is still decolletee... and, when she is in a very smart gown, she looks like an edition de luxe of a bad French novel'
These quotes are all examples of explicit shade, where the effect is in how wittily the statement is delivered. Often an individual will choose to compare their opponent to an undesirable object, with the 'shade' lying in the manner in which they do so (see the third and fourth quotes above).
On occasion, shade can be both implicit and explicit, though few have mastered this. One example of where it was pulled off to great effect would be when Mariah Carey was made aware of Madonna's incessant 'shade-throwing' during a 'Daydream' press conference. The diva responded:
"I really haven't paid attention to Madonna since I was in 7th or 8th grade when she used to be popular so I didn't hear that."In just one sentence, Mariah managed to explicitly state that Madonna was no longer popular, as well as imply that she hadn't heard the comments the Queen of Pop had made about her and draw attention to the fact that her rival was far older than her. Shade in its highest and purest form.
The Art of Shade
If one is to be considered an artist in the field of shade, it isn't enough to merely insult someone. As insults are almost always explicit, if you want your statement to be deemed explicit shade (which is arguably the most difficult to achieve), throwing in a comparison or two and pulling them off well adds wit and an interesting quality. Implicit shade also requires a layer of wit, though the mere implication of or reference to your opponent's failure or other downfalls is often enough. Indirect shade tends to rely less on wit and more on your ability to make it clear just who or what you are discussing, without actually mentioning their or its name (and, often, without having been prompted by another).
As late as the early 1900s, the average person had the ability to insult effectively, with an extensive vocabulary and creativity that many lack today. Instead, in recent years, the art of the insult (which is quite different) has fallen by the wayside, with many choosing to rely on the use of obscenities to denigrate or criticise their opponent, lacking the finesse our predecessors had in spades.
The ability to shade has picked up the shortfall, with celebrities such as Whitney Houston, Madonna and Mariah Carey having turned it into an art form, criticising their inferiors and opponents with little more than a few words and an insincere smile.
Allow us to conclude by defining the 'art of shade'. The Art of Shade lies in one's ability to deliver an insult in a clever, witty and succinct fashion. Shade can be delivered implicitly (where implication is the name of the game and the audience has to infer the insult), explicitly (where it is made clear who or what you are talking about and the insult does not need to be inferred) or indirectly (where it isn't made clear who or what you are talking about and the insult's effectiveness relies on the audience's ability to know who/what you are discussing), though all three can be equally as devastating if done right.
Indeed, one's ability to shade effectively often lies in one's intelligence, quick thinking and knowledge of one's opponent. There is little point in making baseless accusations, as, while they are sometimes humorous, there are nowhere near as effective as a comment on an individual's advanced age (Mariah on Madonna), broken marriage (Mariah on Kim Kardashian), troubled home life (Chuck Lorre on Charlie Sheen), lack of recent success (Rihanna on Ciara) or general irrelevancy. Too often, those who attempt to shade fail because they forget one simple fact: the darkest (and most crippling) shade is often that which is rooted in truth. Remember that and you're halfway to perfecting the Art of Shade.