Dig Those Groovy Tunes!

the only sound that's left after the ambulances go

Well, you know it’s bad news when “Hannah Montana” starts looking palatable… June 10, 2010

About a year ago, I did not think that Miley Cyrus (let alone anyone else) could ever produce any video more nauseating than the diabetic coma-inducing one that accompanied “The Climb”.

Well, turns out I was wrong.  Oh, was I dead wrong.  And, while I really wish I could commend Ms. Cyrus for her effort to assert her independence and distancing herself from her Disney career (my personal views on her aesthetic musical quality notwithstanding), I think she’s going about it all wrong.  But I also cannot entirely blame her for the perverse travesty of a music video that is “Can’t be Tamed,” since it is clear that she was not the only person involved in the making of this video.  I have no idea if Cyrus is the one who came up with the concept, but whether she did or not, obviously a lot of people (i.e. the director(s), the producer(s), the distributor(s), the backup dancers, the extras, the special effects people, the costume designers, the TV station people who broadcast the video, etc.) must have thought the idea wasn’t absolutely horrible and allowed it to be made, distributed, and broadcast.

I have a number of problems with the video for “Can’t Be Tamed”.  First of all, the most obvious:  Miley Cyrus is seventeen flippin’ years old!  And most of her fans are much, much younger!  What the heck kind of message is this supposed to send?!  And let me just remind you all that I’m not against Miley Cyrus trying to be a serious, independent artist, and I know she has every right to voice her strong aversion to being “tamed”.  I also haven’t forgotten that teenagers can and do have active and healthy sex lives and should not be ashamed and/or afraid of their sexuality.  That’s fine.  However, there’s a difference between being sexually confident and being sexualized, and the latter is what’s going on in this video.  While this video may attempt to show that Cyrus is not a commodity, It’s actually turning her into a different kind of commodity.  While she once was (and is still) sold for consumption by girls in their ‘tweens, she is now being put forward as a commodity for adult consumption.  And in doing so, she is sacrificing even more of her identity than she had as a Disney star.  Much as the video for “The Climb” may be sickeningly sweet, much as it may be a cliche-filled color-saturated CGI nightmare, at its core is a girl who seems to have a very strong sense of self, who is not trying to be anyone else; content with who she is.  “Can’t be Tamed”, in contrast, shows Miley’s attempts to be “edgy” by taking on the roles and stereotypes assumed to be “sexy” and “dangerous” nowadays.  She’s pulling the ol’ “straight-girl-makeout” thing that seems to be so popular in (non-porn) videos nowadays, thanks in part to Katy Perry (I am not against girls kissing girls in videos.  In fact, if anything, I’d like homosexual activity to become more visible in mainstream pop culture, but merely pretending to be a lesbian because it seems like the hip thing to do or because it’s a turn-on for some men is the wrong way to go).  And putting Cyrus in outfits that bring a lot of attention to her cleavage and her legs is not going to make her look more mature, but will merely act to sexualize Miley’s youth.  Which is pretty stinkin’ gross, when you think about it.  And don’t even get me started on the whole bondage undertones (or are they overtones?) in this video.

Speaking of gross, what probably skeeves me out the most about this video is the fact that it is obviously aimed towards adults (and maybe older teens, but mostly adults).  I mean, the folks that see her caged in the beginning of the video, and proceed to act as voyeurs to her “exotic”-ness (oh, and I forgot to mention…the whole turning-Miley-into-some-kind-of-animal thing?  Yeah, that’s pretty effed-up too.  Way to dehumanize her further by turning her into some stereotype of an animal, guys.  And not a very original stereotype, either)?  Yeah, they’re all adults.  And even after the Mileybird tells these people off (by way of singing and dancing erotically.  Once again, ew), she still has the viewers at home to contend with.  The viewers who are probably adults.  And if there are any of her younger fans watching her, they probably won’t be able to understand or relate to what’s going on in the video.  They’ve never seen her doing anything like this before; they’re used to seeing her all happy and sparkly and sanitized.  Which, you know, can be pretty obnoxious for those well past childhood, but for kids, it’s A-okay.  And I’m not saying that Miley should make a lifelong career out of being a happy, sparkly, sanitized role model for kids whose soul is locked up somewhere inside the Disney vault; all I’m saying is that if she has to alienate all her old fans all at once in order to feel like a serious artist, she is not likely to attract many new fans or be taken all that seriously.  And also, there are better ways to be seen as a serious and independent artist than by sexing up one’s image or sacrificing individuality on the altar of “cool”.

 

Today’s post has been brought to you by LJ Lawrence and his fantastic facial hair of DOOM! June 6, 2010

Yup, this is totally the background on my laptop right now. Because LJ's new mustache is just THAT awesome.

Having lately viewed some recent images and videos of The Dead Weather (you know, that band I was all psyched about around the time I started this blog and since have written oodles and oodles of posts on of varying degrees of relevance?  Yeah, they’re back with a new album already.  And, amazingly, I have yet to get my hands on it), I couldn’t help but notice the manly new growth of hair on bassist Little Jack “LJ” Lawrence’s once-boyish face.  And since LJ, up until now, has probably changed the least in appearance out of all the people who’ve been in bands with Jack White (including Jack White himself, who seems to change his hairstyle every time a new album comes out.  Lately he seems to be sporting a vaguely girlish Alvin-Lee-at-Woodstock kinda ‘do — that is, if Alvin Lee decided to go goth at Woodstock, highly unlikely considering goth did not exist as a fashion statement until around the time The Cure came out, unless you want to count proto-goths like Alice Cooper and Sally Field.  Now, where was I?  Oh, yeah, LJ), and since I was just waiting for an excuse to dedicate an entire post to the world’s most adorkable bassist (who also happens to have some of the most gorgeous hair I have ever seen and I must find out what kind of shampoo and/or conditioner he uses), I decided what they hey?  So tonight, I celebrate my love for Little Jack.  As well as the power a mere mustache has to make what used to be one of the most innocuous-looking musicians ever to collaborate with Jack White (yes, even Meg would look almost hostile next to the pre-whiskered LJ) look downright sinister.  Like some absinthe-drinking evil genius who may or may not also be a vampire and/or warlock…  

For comparison, here are two music videos featuring LJ.  The first is an old video from one of LJ’s previous bands (as far as bands go, LJ is quite possibly the only artist in either The Dead Weather or The Raconteurs who is more prolific than Mr. White), The Greenhornes, where the nerdy-awesome bassist is clean-shaven and joins his bandmates to spread joy and peace and retro-delic swirls of color.  In the latter video, the latest from The Dead Weather, brief glimpses can be seen of LJ (although the video is dominated by frontpersons Alison Mosshart and Jack White) with his newfound whiskers of terror!  And naturally, this video is much darker.  Is this perhaps because of LJ Lawrence’s sudden aversion to the ol’ razor?  Probably not.  But that’s not going to keep me from pretending to theorize that LJ’s facial hair or lack thereof determines the degree of darkness in the videos he appears in (a theory which I know full well can be very easily refuted by the videos for The Raconteurs’ “Broken Boy Soldier” — no mustache, but still a plenty creepy video, esp. since I’m pretty sure Floria Sigismondi, the director of the “Broken Boy Soldier” vid also direced “Die By the Drop” — and Blanche’s very death-centric “Someday” — which not only features Little Jack with no facial hair, but also features him playing the banjo — how ominous could that possibly be?  The answer:  very).  Because I love making up weird theories like that in my spare time…you should hear my latest one about The Eagles’ “Hotel California” being a result of the song’s writer being possessed by the spirit of Shirley Jackson…except I actually almost believe that one myself.  Seriously, go and read “A Visit” and tell me “Hotel California” isn’t some sort of spiritual successor…but anyway, back to the LJ and the mustache business…  

By the way, it seems as though LJ now has not only a mustache, but a full-fledged goatee…check it out…  

 

Video of the Week: “Bad Boyfriend” by Pansy Division June 5, 2010

If you’ve been following my blog (don’t blame ya if you haven’t), you may have gathered from previous Videos of the Week that I have a weakness for the following:

  1. Ridiculously simplistic and/or low-budget videos (although the occasional cinematic masterpiece-type vid is nice, too).
  2. Lesser-known videos and/or bands.
  3. Children’s toys.

In keeping with these trends, I give you “Bad Boyfriend” by California queercore band Pansy Division.  The video seems to have been filmed on a budget of no more than $2 (though I doubt if it even cost that much) and stars an adorable but angsty polar bear plushie (and one that seems to have been through the wear and tear that tells of a long lifetime of love from its owner.  This goes for all the polar bear’s friends as well).  My personal favorite part of the video is the guitar solo, a close second being the trumpets coming in  at the end.  And by the way, I’m almost certain I own, or at least used to own, a dolphin just like the one used in this video.  Enjoy.