Culture critics on Beyoncé's 'Renaissance' album and reality TV obsession : It's Been a Minute Beyoncé's new album is here! Guest host Anna Sale chats with Dan Runcie, founder of the hip hop site Trapital, and Joey Guerra, music critic for the Houston Chronicle. They talk about Renaissance, what Beyoncé means to us and how this album meets the moment.

Also, It's Been a Minute producer Liam McBain talks to culture writer Crispin Long about their shared obsession with reality dating shows. They discuss how these shows lay bare our society's obsession with marriage, and why reality dating drama is so compelling — even to folks who don't buy into the fixation on finding "the one."

— Read Crispin's Astra Magazine essay on reality dating shows: "Heterosexual Vortex"

You can follow us on Twitter @NPRItsBeenAMin and email us at ibam@npr.org.

Bow down, Queen Bey's 'Renaissance' era has finally arrived

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ANNA SALE, HOST:

Hey, y'all. You're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Anna Sale.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

KALEN ALLEN: This is a public service announcement. She's back.

SALE: She is, of course, Beyonce. And this week, the Queen Bee dropped her new album, "Renaissance." So if you have a Beyonce fan in your life, you may want to heed TikTok user Kalen Allen's advice.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

ALLEN: It's a renaissance, baby. So don't call me. Don't text me. She's going to change the world again.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALIEN SUPERSTAR")

BEYONCE: (Singing) I'm one of one. I'm No. 1. I'm the only one.

SALE: I hope you're ready to dance. If the pandemic was marked by music that made you want to cozy up in a cardigan and chill out alone, Beyonce is declaring it's time to sweat it out with your lovers and friends.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALIEN SUPERSTAR")

BEYONCE: (Singing) Keep him addicted, lies on his lips, I lick it.

SALE: The whole album, billed as "Renaissance: Act I," is a tribute to music that makes you want to move, from house to funk to techno to ballroom.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALIEN SUPERSTAR")

BEYONCE: (Singing) I'm too classy for this world, forever I'm that girl, feed you diamonds and pearls, oh, baby.

SALE: There are few musicians who can make the world stop when they drop new music, but Beyonce for decades has had her grip on the zeitgeist. This week, she's what everyone was talking about - the unexpected album leak two days ago, the dedication of the album to her late gay uncle and its invitation for all of us to find some release on the dance floor.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BREAK MY SOUL'")

BIG FREEDIA: (Rapping) Release your anger, release your mind. Release your job, release the time. Release your trade...

SALE: To break all this down, I spoke with Joey Guerra, a music critic at the Houston Chronicle - Beyonce's hometown, of course - and Dan Runcie, the founder of the hip-hop business site Trapital.

DAN RUNCIE: Thanks for having me.

JOEY GUERRA: Yeah. Thank you so much.

SALE: I want to just capture that first feeling you had when listening to the tracks. Dan, what did you feel?

RUNCIE: I felt a release. I felt like I could have the freedom to be able to go express myself. And I think Beyonce was able to have an album that can make you say, finally, yes, here's a song like this that I haven't heard in a little while from someone that you respect so much. This album and these songs I know will be played for a while, and I'm here for it.

SALE: Joey, for you, what was your first reaction?

GUERRA: I think there are so many moments here that when I first listened to it immediately just struck me - the opening track, "I'm That Girl," which was co-produced by Mike Dean.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'M THAT GIRL")

BEYONCE: (Singing) I'm that girl. It's just that I'm that girl.

SALE: When you listened, what did you hear?

GUERRA: Oh, my gosh. I think first and foremost, for me, kind of what we heard with "Break My Soul," which was sort of these references and these allusions to '90s house music, '90s ballroom culture, you know, queer, people of color communities who really sort of championed this sound, this genre, that's kind of what I heard in that song when I first listened to it. I love sort of also the slow and languid kind of rhythms that she uses through a lot of this. It reminded me of the chopped and screwed sound from Houston.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'M THAT GIRL")

BEYONCE: (Singing) I'm tweaking, freaking on the weekend.

GUERRA: It just is really different in a lot of ways from anything she's done. But at the same time, for me at least, growing up with '90s house music, going out to clubs every weekend and dancing, that's kind of where it took me when I listened to it.

SALE: Dan, you are also a big Beyonce fan, and you are a student of how she's responded to and shaped the music business and its commerce. Any choices you noticed listening, creative choices, that you thought were interesting from a business perspective?

RUNCIE: One thing that always stuck out to me about Beyonce is how she releases music that captures the moment that we're in. The pandemic has been going on for a while. COVID's still here. People have been locked up inside. Having music like this, in many ways, is such a shift from so much of the music I think we've heard in the streaming era. I think streaming slowed down a lot of the BPMs and the beats and the rhythms of music. So her being able to, in many ways, bounce back to have this love letter to the '90s that I think "Renaissance" really is stands out in a way of clearly what era she grew up in and a lot of the music that she connected with.

SALE: You mentioned there that in the streaming era, music actually slowed down. The beats got more - just, like, we were listening to slower music. Is that so?

RUNCIE: Yeah. I think that a lot of the sound, if you think about that Travis Scott sound that really got so popular, so much of it lended itself more to on-demand playing as opposed to some of the music before streaming really blew up where you're thinking more directly about the radio hits or you're thinking more directly about what will work in a club. So now you have this other medium - well, not that at-home listening wasn't necessarily there, but because so much of it is on demand, what can you cater to? And I think that we saw streaming shift to that in a way. But I think Beyonce is likely responding in another way to be like, hey, I think my fans kind of want the opposite now. We've all been inside. We can all play the music on demand. Let's have something fun. Let's give people those rooftop vibes that they want to have and dance and let loose a little bit.

SALE: Yeah, come on out into the streets and dance together. Are there particular tracks that you listened to that made you feel that vibe?

RUNCIE: Yeah, there were several of them. I think that "Church Girl" was one that I thought about because it clearly hit something that I think people likely relate to, that feeling of, yes, you're going to church. You're still trying to, you know, do the family thing, but you're still going to go out on Saturday night.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHURCH GIRL")

BEYONCE: (singing) You know you got church in the morning, but you're doing God's work. You're going in.

RUNCIE: Or even her using interpolation of different songs. She had drop it like a thottie in there.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHURCH GIRL")

BEYONCE: (singing) I'll drop it like a thottie, drop it like a thottie. I said now pop it like a thottie, pop it like a thottie.

RUNCIE: You know, you could clearly trace that back to "Back That Thing Up" with Juvenile and the Hot Boys and everyone from Cash Money. And that's also a song that she's referenced to as well, with what she did with "Homecoming" and what she did with her Coachella performance.

SALE: OK. We're going to take a quick break. When we get back, we'll talk about what the album title "Renaissance" could mean for Beyonce and for our moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SALE: The other thing I think about a lot with Beyonce releases is this is where we often find out about her inner life. Did you learn anything new that you didn't know before you listened to these new tracks?

GUERRA: I think, you know, I always knew that there was a part of her that felt very endeared or connected to the queer community. But on this album, for me, I really, really felt that connection. There's that spoken intro that she samples from "Moonraker."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALIEN SUPERSTAR")

FOREMOST POETS: Please do not be alarmed. Remain calm. Do not attempt to leave the dance floor.

GUERRA: And that takes me back to another song, "Divas To The Dance Floor, Please," which I just remember when that song would play, the dance floor would go crazy and everybody would come to the dance floor and dance.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DIDN'T I KNOW (DIVAS TO THE DANCE FLOOR, PLEASE)")

E G FULLALOVE: Divas to the dance floor, please. Divas to the dance floor, please.

GUERRA: It's just those really specific moments. I don't know that I've ever felt such specific kind of references listening to an album. You know what I mean?

SALE: And Dan, you mentioned this in your first answer, but I want to pull it out a little bit more. This is, of course, Beyonce's first solo studio album since 2016, when "Lemonade" came out, and that masterpiece included both reflections on her marriage and about the state of America. I was kind of listening for more literal political commentary. Like, I clicked on the track - I clicked on to listen to "America Has A Problem," and I was like, wait. This song isn't about literally how America has a problem. It's about much different things. It's sort of...

RUNCIE: Same.

SALE: ...Layered with different things. But then you look at a song like "Move," which is this expression of, like, give me space. I'm with my girls and we all need space. And it's sort of this declaration - which is not new for Beyonce but - of self-love, and about centering her experience and centering the experience of people like her, which is political commentary in this very joyful way.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOVE")

GRACE JONES: Don't make it turn into trouble, 'cause we coming straight out of the jungle.

RUNCIE: Exactly. I think she was able to still weave it in, even if it was more of a subtle way because even "Move" itself, as important as the themes are, it still is a up-tempo song that fits within this album. But I think it's probably the song that feels the most classic Beyonce, if you will.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOVE")

BEYONCE: (Rapping) Move, move, move, move. Skrrt off, make room. Stampede coming through...

SALE: I have a question for both of you. Why do you think she named this album "Renaissance"?

RUNCIE: Thinking about renaissance and what it means, especially when you're thinking about the Harlem Renaissance, which comes to mind first and foremost, thinking about what's most connected to her and maybe just thinking about the revival and the spirit of art being created and being celebrated with people that are ready to come together in this moment - and the fact that these can normally happen after times of frustrations or challenges that are happening in a particular community - her being able to be like, hey, this was a tough period, let's come together and have a celebratory moment, I think that in a lot of ways, especially when I see that, when I saw the album cover, too, and you hear "Break My Soul," it's like, OK, she wants to be able to set the tone. She wants to be able to put things forward, and if this can be a checkmark along that way, thinking about even if we look 100 years ago when the last time there was a pandemic, you have the Roaring '20s that had happened after. It follows that boom-bust type of mentality where when there was a period of challenges, normally things do change and come together. So if she's putting her stamp on, maybe, that this 2020s time period here that we're moving into can be its own cultural renaissance, and she can plant her flag as being part of that.

GUERRA: I mean, everything Dan said, I absolutely agree with. I think, you know, catastrophe, celebration, catastrophe, celebration, right? And, you know, this feels like it's musically, socially, culturally, it's the dawning of a new day, you know, in the world of Beyonce. And I do think we hear that in the music. I think, again, you know, referencing back this moment in time in the '90s with queer culture and house music, you know, that was, I think, for a lot of people, a moment that could also be described as a renaissance, right? I mean, she's reminding us of that time. She's reminding us to laugh. She's reminding us to celebrate. She's reminding us to take your problems to the dance floor, which is a line we've heard in lots of songs, right? But, yeah, I think it's fully reflected in everything that you hear on this album. Absolutely.

SALE: And she's told us this in her own words. I want to read an excerpt of a statement she released on this album. She said, creating this album allowed me a place to dream and to find escape during a scary time for the world. It allowed me to feel free and adventurous in a time when little else was moving. My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment, a place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking, a place to scream, release, feel freedom. It was a beautiful journey of exploration.

GUERRA: I think, from where she says a safe space on, that just perfectly to me encapsulates the album, and it perfectly, again, encapsulates - I think that's why so many people love the '90s and there's so much throwback to the '90s in terms of, you know, TV shows and music and fashion because that was a moment when people were celebrating. And for me, you know, as a gay man, going to clubs, dancing to music, that was a safe space. It was a space where I didn't have to worry about, you know, who was around me or who was watching me or who saw me holding hands or who saw me, you know, acting too, quote-unquote, "gay." You know, it just - I can't stress enough how much this album really reflects that moment for me as a - just as a person.

SALE: And she references that, also, in another part of the statement. She says, thank you to all the pioneers who originate culture, to all of the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognized for far too long. Do you see that as a reference to queer people who've made the music that she's referencing and the AIDS epidemic?

GUERRA: Yes, absolutely. That's the first thing I thought of when I read that was, you know, the people who really created the sound, created this movement and, like you said, people who we lost to HIV and AIDS. I think that's definitely who she's referencing here.

SALE: It's nice to hear something so beautiful after the leak. It doesn't sound like it's fueled by sour grapes.

(LAUGHTER)

SALE: Still sounds joyful.

GUERRA: Yes, yes, yes. I guess, you know, all - maybe not all is forgiven, but, you know, we're moving past the leak. The album's out. Now we can hear it. Let's just forget about that.

SALE: Yeah. And speaking of the leak for you, Joey, you're a music critic. You're also a fan. You're also sort of tracking how the culture responds to Beyonce releases. Was there part of you that was a little - was there a sadness that the leak happened, that it prevented us from having this collective moment of all consuming it at the same time at midnight Eastern Time, when the album was supposed to be released and you could - you know, where social media would be lighting up in real time while people were responding to it? Did you feel a loss in not having that collective moment?

GUERRA: I did a little bit, you know, because like you said, you know, everybody was sort of waiting for this moment, waiting to hear this music. And just the thought of everybody hearing this at the same time, it's just a nice - it's a nice feeling, you know, that feeling of community, that feeling of everybody doing the same thing all at once, seeing all the tweets about, you know, oh, my God, I'm listening to this, people live tweeting their reactions to the tracks. The Beyhive made a very forceful effort to report the leaks and tell people not to listen, but I had no clue. I think I didn't find out until about an hour after, and I looked on Twitter and I saw that Beyonce leak was trending or something like that, and I was like, oh, my gosh.

SALE: Yeah. Oh, my gosh, and also, where is it?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUMMER RENAISSANCE")

BEYONCE: (Singing) Baby, can I take you all the way? You sexy...

SALE: Thanks again to Trapital's Dan Runcie and the Houston Chronicle's Joey Guerra. "Renaissance" is out now. Coming up, IT'S BEEN A MINUTE producer Liam McBain and culture writer Crispin Long on why they're obsessed with straight dating shows.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SALE: We all have our guilty pleasures, especially when it comes to TV, the shows we somehow stumble upon and just can't quit. One of our producers here at IT'S BEEN A MINUTE, he can't stop thinking about one type of show in particular. Hello, Liam.

LIAM MCBAIN, BYLINE: Hi, Anna.

SALE: What is your can't-quit TV?

MCBAIN: OK, so you know this already because I can't - you know, I've been talking about it non-stop, but like, I'm obsessed with...

SALE: Tell the people.

MCBAIN: Yes, I'm obsessed with reality dating shows. That's my truth. Like, I have an obsession with them.

SALE: OK. We welcome this information. You are safe here...

MCBAIN: (Laughter).

SALE: ...Describing that. For you, what are your shows?

MCBAIN: OK. Well, let me tell you, these are not airing right now, but, you know, the Netflix ones like "Love Is Blind" and "The Ultimatum." There's just something about them that is intensely addictive. But right now, I've been watching the latest season of "Love Island"...

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDREI BASIROV AND TOBY JARVIS' "LOVE ISLAND THEME")

MCBAIN: ...Which is great because they have new episodes out every day. They just love to feed the people.

SALE: (Laughter).

MCBAIN: And, like, I watch it every day. Like, I watched my "Love Island" on my break today. I'm not even kidding (laughter).

SALE: Whoa. Wait, every day. You don't skip a day.

MCBAIN: No, I don't skip a day. Why would I skip a day?

SALE: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LOVE ISLAND")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: If you were boyfriend and girlfriend, I wouldn't even try.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: No, no, no. We're not, like, boyfriend and girlfriend. No.

MCBAIN: You know, and I'm also - I just started watching. I watched, like, the first episode of the latest entry in "The Bachelor" universe, "The Bachelorettes" - plural. That came out, like, very recently. I'm admittedly not a usual member of "The Bachelor" nation, but I'm about to be, so (laughter)...

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BACHELORETTES")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: This is definitely not the normal situation because we do have two bachelorettes.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Do you think it's going to be two separate group dates? Or are they both going to be on one?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: I cannot prepare...

SALE: So Liam, I dabble in reality dating shows. I've seen a few. But why do you like them so much? What makes them so compelling?

MCBAIN: Listen, I've been asking myself the same question because, like, in my day-to-day life, I have no real interest in what straight people are doing. But watching these shows, I need to know everything. I am so in their business. So I called up a fellow reality dating fan to figure out why.

CRISPIN LONG: Well, right now, I do intend very soon to jump into the first season of "Bachelorette" with two bachelorettes that just started. I'm very fascinated with what will happen with them. You know, I hope they kiss.

MCBAIN: (Laughter).

LONG: I - so that's what...

MCBAIN: Me, too.

LONG: ...I'm looking forward to right now. Yeah.

MCBAIN: That is Crispin Long. They wrote about all of this recently in an article in Astra Magazine. So I talked to them about what these shows say about our society's obsession with marriage and why we can't get enough of them.

So, like me, I know you also get sucked into a lot of reality dating shows. What was your first entry into the genre?

LONG: So I first watched a full season when "The Bachelorette" had the first Black Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay, who was a star. And it just felt so satisfying to watch people kind of, like, admit how this is supposed to work and admit that, like, they think everyone has to find marriage to be happy for the most part. And then "Love Is Blind" really kind of hit another sweet spot for me because it's - you know, it's even a more exaggerated version of the kind of, you know, bald desperation for marriage where you commit to somebody and you become engaged to them without ever having seen them before, for one thing.

MCBAIN: Yeah.

LONG: And I just loved watching people kind of, you know, talk to these people and come up with a fantasy in their mind of who they want this person to be. And then as they actually meet in person, there's inevitably a kind of a clash between that fantasy and the actual person in front of them. And they're kind of, you know, trying to persuade themselves because they're so invested. Like, this has to work.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LOVE IS BLIND")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: I don't really - I don't know. I mean, there's no, like - there's nothing wrong with him. It's just - it's not something I can really put my finger on, I guess.

LONG: And I just found it really satisfying to watch that play out in a somewhat perverse manner, too (laughter). Like...

MCBAIN: I know. It's like - it's so delicious but, like, not, like, kind of in, like, a gross way. I mean, like - OK. I'm a gay trans guy. I have no personal interest in the project of heterosexuality, which, like, you know, maybe I would loosely define here as a compulsion towards marriage and kids and the nuclear family as, like, the only path towards an imagined belonging or happiness. And I'd even, like - you know, I'd argue gay marriage is somewhat tied to this project as well. Ha ha. I know you're not invested in all that either personally. So, like, why watch, you know, some of these, like, incredibly straight shows? Like, what makes it, like, kind of compelling for you?

LONG: Yeah. I mean, I think just kind of being in opposition to those values makes them compelling to watch. There's a kind of schadenfreude of, like, oh, I've disinvested from, you know, an attachment to marriage and the nuclear family. And, like, see, it's playing out badly for these people.

But also, for me personally - you know, I'm someone who came out pretty late in life. I, you know, spent basically until I was about 30 years old doing these sort of, you know, heterosexual relationships and then sort of blew up my life and decided to live by an entirely different set of values and not prioritize romantic relationships in the same way and not have marriage be, like, the end goal for me in order to enter adulthood. And it's - you know, it's satisfying to go back and watch the ways that that can go awry with other people and the ways that people feel this very real pressure that I once felt. But also, you know, I have this kind of ridiculous sense of superiority because I'm like, oh, you can't fool me. I've now escaped heterosexuality.

MCBAIN: Yeah. I mean, it's like, you know, these people are who I might be if I didn't transition, you know? Like, OK, like hats off to people who are happily married. Like, I have no beef with them.

LONG: Oh, yeah.

MCBAIN: I hope you're having a good time. But, you know, like, the very - like, the pressure that you have to marry or that you have to have a family to be happy or to, like, you know, enter adulthood - like you said, there's kind of, like, a perverse kind of interest in something I feel like I kind of escaped, and hope other people can escape too, if that's right for them. Like, I feel like it might feel a little bit strange for me personally that I'm into this stuff, but like, you know, these shows are incredibly popular. "The Bachelor" garners millions of viewers per episode. Americans are clearly buying what these shows are selling, so I thought I'd ask, like, what exactly are they selling? What are the values?

LONG: I mean, the values, especially kind of within the universe of the show, are - of course, getting married is one of the pinnacles of happiness. People should get married. People should want to get married. And then, you know, more specifically, the way it plays out on these shows is - the sort of ideal arc - right? - is you meet someone. You immediately have feelings for that one person. Those feelings don't change. If they do change, you're doing something wrong.

I mean, I think the most extreme example of this is, like, every episode of "Married At First Sight," and a team of "experts," quote-unquote, have picked, you know, these pairings after doing interviews with all of these potential people who want to be on the show. And then they pick someone. They get married to them. It's legally binding. They cannot get it annulled. And then they have a little chat, you know, like a strange wedding. But what happens on that show is the experts, they really coach them toward, you know, you have already committed to this marriage, so it is your responsibility to do the work that needs to be done in order to preserve the marriage.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MARRIED AT FIRST SIGHT")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #7: What are you expecting from your relationship? What do you want from him?

UNIDENTIFIED CONTESTANT: I want him to be happy.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #7: Why is that a request? Tell me more about that.

UNIDENTIFIED CONTESTANT: Because if he's not happy, it kind of affects me because I live with you. You're my partner.

LONG: But they're sort of treated like if they can't become attracted to this person that they may not be attracted to, then that's kind of a moral failing on their part, and they haven't tried hard enough.

MCBAIN: Right. And, like, what do you feel when you see someone failing to connect with the person they're with, or you're, like, trying again and again to find that with someone and just not getting there? Like, you know, that desperation there, like, I feel so much empathy. Do you?

LONG: I do. Yeah. I really - yeah, I feel their disappointment and just - I don't know - all of the pressure that they're under from other people, that they've imposed on themselves. And I think, too, you know, from my perspective, a lot of it feels so unnecessary to me. Like, I wish they had more of an analysis or just someone would tell them like, it's OK, you don't have to get married. You're not a failure if you didn't get married. And I think, too, it's a failure to have felt the right things, in many cases. You know, their disappointment is like, I was supposed to feel a sense of love and connection that I didn't feel, and that must, maybe, in some way be my fault. And, you know, I just want to tell them, like, you really can't control your feelings, to a certain extent. It's very hard to do. It's very hard to decide that you're in love with somebody because they happen to be the person stuck in front of you in this game.

MCBAIN: Yeah. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that there are queer dating reality shows. Like, they exist. I've seen a lot of them, and I've seen recently that they just wrapped Season 2 of "The Ultimatum" featuring an all-queer cast. You've seen "The Ultimatum," right?

LONG: Yes. Yes, I've seen the first season.

MCBAIN: Yeah. For our listeners who don't know, it's a show where one person in an existing couple gives the other an ultimatum - either marry me or move on. Like, we're done. And the show has them date other people in other couples to see if the grass is greener elsewhere.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE ULTIMATUM")

APRIL: I definitely thought giving Jake the ultimatum would bring us together. It is doing the complete opposite.

MCBAIN: But, you know, doing that with, like, an all-queer cast, like, the show is still very much about marriage. Does the queerness of a show like that, you know, change the core aspirations or values?

LONG: I think you can live your life according to traditional heterosexual values while also, you know, being gay or being queer, you know, not that you, like, have to reject everything. But there is this sense that, like, there was a movement for queer liberation throughout the 20th century, kind of culminating in many ways, like, in the '80s and '90s, and then a moment where people came in and kind of threw their weight around in the movement who were really invested in gay marriage and who wanted to assimilate to these values. And yeah, I think if you put, you know, queer people on a dating show, often, a lot of times, they may kind of have that set of beliefs about their own life, that the next step for them is to get married, that they need to, you know, play the same game that the straight people are playing on the other reality shows, right? Like, the goal is total commitment, and the goal is stability. And I'm curious to see on "The Ultimatum," like, who are these people? Like, what types of gays are on "The Ultimatum"?

MCBAIN: (Laughter).

LONG: I'm extremely curious to know.

MCBAIN: Could there be, like, a queer or trans reality dating show that's, like, not invested in these same values? Like, I'm thinking about the bisexual season of "Are You The One?" that kind of comes close. Or does the format make doing something differently kind of impossible?

LONG: Oh, yeah. I mean, the all-bisexual season of "Are You The One?" is iconic...

MCBAIN: Iconic.

LONG: ...The messiest reality TV dating show that ever was.

MCBAIN: Gives white transmascs a bad, but not inaccurate, name (laughter).

LONG: Absolutely. Kai. Oh, Kai.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ARE YOU THE ONE?")

KAI WES: No one here is, like, wifed up. Nobody here is boyfriend-girlfriend here. I'm going to do what I want.

LONG: Yeah, that - I mean, that show was interesting because I do think - I would argue that it did not replicate these values in most ways, you know, especially just because the premise of that show is, like, anyone could date anyone. So, you know, let's put these people in a little, strange bubble together. And anyone can mix with anyone. And we'll see what wild drama arises from that, which was an incredibly successful formula. There was a lot of crying. There was a lot of...

MCBAIN: Yeah.

LONG: You know, there was group sex. There was all kinds of stuff...

MCBAIN: Yes.

LONG: ...Which I would have predicted and was delighted to see. Like, that sort of did feel representative. At the same time, you know, a lot of the conflicts on that show were related to the question of, I am interested in this person. We have sort of a - some kind of relationship that's romantic and or sexual between us. Is someone committed? Who is committed? Are we both committed?

But I think watching people try to negotiate on that show - it created a lot of conflict, but there was a sense that when people did commit to each other and it was mutual, it really was chosen by them. And there was a sense, too, that, you know, even if it didn't last, people would be upset, but that was kind of more allowed. There was a lot of flexibility there.

MCBAIN: If they - OK. If you were making a queer or a trans dating show, like, what would you want to see? Like, what kind of mess or structure or just kind of, like...

LONG: Oh, wow.

MCBAIN: ...Vibes would you want out of it that, like, you know, feels different?

LONG: Wow. I've never thought about this before. What about all-bisexual "Love Island"? That would be good. Like...

MCBAIN: What if it was, like, all bisexual T4T and, like, you win if you can convince someone to get a T4T tattoo?

LONG: Oh, my God. I love it.

(LAUGHTER)

LONG: I think forming, you know, friendships with people would be, like, a nice thing to consider winning a show. Like, what if there was a show about finding your best friend? Like, that whole...

MCBAIN: Aw.

LONG: Like, the Paris Hilton show. Like, yeah, maybe that's it. Maybe the show is, like, put a bunch of bisexuals together who are allowed to date and inevitably will, and the winner is people who exchange friendship bracelets.

MCBAIN: I love that. I love that it takes, like, the focus off of commitment. You just, like - you're vibing, and, like, you can just make a friend. And maybe they're also someone that you have romantic or sexual, like, relationship with, you know?

LONG: Yeah, I would definitely watch that show.

MCBAIN: Thank you, Crispin, so much for coming on.

LONG: Yeah, thank you for having me.

MCBAIN: Really love talking about reality dating with you (laughter).

LONG: Yes. So much fun.

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SALE: Thanks again to culture writer Crispin Long and to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE producer Liam McBain. Crispin wrote about their love of reality dating shows in Astra Magazine earlier this month. And Liam will talk about reality dating shows with anyone who asks and some who don't.

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SALE: This episode of IT'S BEEN A MINUTE was produced by Barton Girdwood, Andrea Gutierrez, Liam McBain, Chloee Weiner and Janet Woojeong Lee. Our intern is Ehianeta Arheghan. Our supervising editor is Jessica Placzek. Our editors are Jessica Mendoza and Quinn O'Toole. Our executive producer is Veralyn Williams. Our VP of programming is Yolanda Sangweni. And our big boss is NPR's senior VP of programming, Anya Grundmann.

And this week, we say goodbye to producer Chloee Weiner and editor Quinn O'Toole. They've been helping us out for a while, and it's time for them to leave us. The whole team thanks you, and we'll miss you. And listeners, I'm saying goodbye, too. This is my last episode as your guest host on IT'S BEEN A MINUTE. It's been so fun, but I'm leaving you in good hands. My WNYC colleague Tracie Hunte will join you for the next two weeks. You can still hear me on the podcast I host, "Death, Sex & Money." Thanks for listening. I'm Anna Sale. Take care.

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