Dig Those Groovy Tunes!

the only sound that's left after the ambulances go

Hey, VH1, You Know What Would Be Just Fantastic? June 26, 2010

"What are we supposed to do on a hot day? What? Not eat popsicles?" --Pickles the Drummer from Dethklok

If you stopped making shows that make women cry over how much weight they’re not losing and get back to showing me some music videos at decent hours of the day?  Yeah, that would be really great.  Yeah, because I think there’s something everyone can agree on:  music, even mediocre music, is infinitely superior to psychological abuse.  And if you’re under the delusion that bullying women into competing with each other to lose weight and earn a Dream Wedding (TM) is NOT psychological abuse, you are seriously mistaken.  

If you’re not familiar with VH1’s recent programming, I’m talking about the cruel travesty that is Bridal Bootcamp.  The basic premise of the show is this:  ten altar-bound women who have deemed their bodies “unfit” get sent to boot camp so they can lose weight and “commit themselves to a healthy lifestyle” (since that’s what they’re apparently calling it these days), all so that they can fit a certain smaller dress size by the time they get married.  The show is basically a competition to see who loses weight the fastest.  One woman is sent home each week based on how little “improvement” she’s made (i.e. how little weight she’s lost, or — heaven forbid! — how much she might have somehow gained in the process), while in the end the last woman standing gets rewarded a so-called Dream Wedding (TM).  While the intentions of this program may be pure, I think it’s sending a number of dangerous messages.  

First of all, it’s worth noting that the contestants come from a wide range of dress sizes, and that the woman with the smallest dress size entered (Kacey, a size 8 at the start of the competition, according to her audition video) is smaller than the goal dress size of the largest woman entered (Tina, an 18W according to her audition video, whose goal is a size 14).  So it may seem that there is no “ideal” dress size, right?  And that’s good, right?  Think again.  These women are actually all going for the same goal, and that goal is “smaller”.  These women evidently feel that they should not be happy with their current bodies, often against their better judgement.  Tina, for example, has been afflicted with asthma for most of her life, and “know[s] exercise will start triggering things,” but is still willing to put herself through rigorous training in order to reach her goal of being “smaller”.  Meanwhile, Kacey, who does not even remotely resemble what anyone in their right mind would consider “fat”, points out cellulite on her rear end and admits that she “think[s] it’s genetic”, yet still attributes it to “drinking too much soda”.  So basically, she’s blaming her lifestyle for something that she actually knows she can’t help.  And that’s all kinds of effed up.  A lot of the contestants also seem to be more concerned with how other people perceive their bodies than how they personally feel about their own bodies.  One contestant, Jamie, says in her audition tape, “I would really love to wear a strapless gown.  But I don’t wanna have to subject people to things like my arms,” she says, and moves her arms in a way that the fat and extra skin under her upper arms jiggles.  I think it’s very sad that she feels the need to get rid of this “problem”, because it’s something that just about everyone has (heck, I’m a scrawny little twig, and even I have a little jiggle under my arms), and also because she feels that she’d be doing others a disservice by not getting rid of it.  Which is, once again, all kinds of effed up.  One thing I find really disturbing is the women who want to “look good” for the sake of their future husbands.  “I want my fiance to say ‘What a smokin’ hot body she has!’ and he can’t wait to just kiss my face off,” says one contestant, while another tearfully says “I would just want my fiance to say — to say I look beautiful.”  Which makes me wonder what their fiances think of them at their current weight.  It saddens me to think that anyone would plan to spend the rest of their life with someone who does not think they’re beautiful the way they are.  This is not to say that the contestants’ fiances really think their future wives could be any more beautiful than they already are, but it makes me sad to think that anyone would choose to lose weight for the benefit of anyone other than themself, especially their life partner.  

As for the activities the contestants are put through on the shows, their trainers are literally working them to the point of illness.  The goal of this program appears to be more concerned with numbers than actual “commitment to a healthy lifestyle.”  The contest seems to be about who can lose the most weight the fastest, and punishes those who do not lose enough weight by eliminating them from the program.  And while weight loss is often a result of a healthy lifestyle, it is often thought of as the goal.  However, one’s health should not be measured in weight alone.  When one starts to make an effort towards a healthy lifestyle, they cannot always expect immediate results.  Exercise can be very beneficial to one’s health, but exercising to hard in order to lose weight as soon as possible is probably not the healthiest thing to do.  Neither weight loss nor health should be a timed contest, because weight loss is unhealthy if rushed and a healthy lifestyle should never have a time limit.  What’s worse about Bridal Bootcamp is that these women are all competing against each other, and only one will win in the end.  The objective of the contest seems to be that whoever punishes her body the most, wins a Dream Wedding (TM).  These women are hurting themselves while trying to assert superiority over others.  That sounds like a lose-lose situation to me, Dream Wedding prize notwithstanding (who decides what a “dream wedding” is, anyway?).  Bridal Bootcamp may have only ran three episodes so far, but it’s already given the impression of doing nothing but breed mistrust and insecurity.  

And what kind of message is this show sending the viewer?  That women should not be happy with their bodies until they’ve reached a smaller size?  That a bride cannot be happy unless she’s already sacrificed years’ worth of weight?  This show also perpetuates the myth that health = weight loss = beauty, when these three things are totally independent of each other.  Weight is a concrete thing:  you can tell just by comparing numbers who out of two individuals is heavier.  We all know that 110 lbs is heavier than 90 lbs.  Fair enough.  However, we should not pretend that we can gauge any other information about these two individuals from their weight, or at least not solely by their weight.  Contrary to popular belief, a 90 lb person is not inherently more or less healthy than a 110 lb person of the same height.  There are too many factors when it comes to judging health; we should not be measuring it in pounds.  Even more dangerous is trying to measure beauty in pounds.  Beauty is a totally subjective thing, though a society may sometimes fool us into thinking it’s objective.  I think it’s safe to assume that all the contestants on Bridal Bootcamp are thought of as beautiful by their future husbands, else why would they have gotten to the point of getting engaged?  If there’s one thing all the women on Bridal Bootcamp have in common besides their impending weddings, it is that they are all beautiful, yet for some reason believe that they are not beautiful enough; that they must improve their looks before they can feel happy with themselves.  Assuming Bridal Bootcamp does give all these women the bodies they love, what they really need is love for their bodies.  

Oh, and one last thing bothers me:  why is there no male equivalent of “bridal bootcamp”?  Or do only women need to feel inadequate in their own bodies?  C’mon, VH1, please get back to showing more music videos so we don’t need to be subjected to this crap.  I’ll settle for reruns of Pop-Up Video…  

Entertaining AND educational. Man, do I miss this show...

 

I Hereby Declare the Next Seven Days to be “Bitch about the Media and Stuff Week” — or — It’s My Blog and I Can Whine if I Want To June 23, 2010

Filed under: Bitchings About the Media and Stuff — yourbirdcansing88 @ 10:18 PM
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"This is an outrage!" -- Tony Harrison, strategically gifted alien shaman and Fleetwood Mac fan. No known relation to Beatle George.

That’s right.  I, the sole current contributor to this blog, had the unmitigated audacity (not 100% sure what that means, but I heard it in a Frank Zappa song) to declare a theme week for my very own blog.  For a number of reasons, the first being that this blog hasn’t had a themed week since “Beatles Week” of aught nine.  Also, as a music blogger, I tend to consume a lot of the media’s output, particularly when it comes to music.  Yet, there’s a lot of stuff going on in the media right now that pisses me off.  And not only does it cut into serious music-listening time (I’m looking at you, irrelevant commercials and TV shows that have nothing to do with music on channels that once had any semblance of being music-centric), but they also seriously bother me as a feminist and a reasonably intelligent human being.  Seriously, media.  Stop feeding me crap.  So I figured that I’d take the following week to gripe about the following: 
  1. The questionable, offensive and/or downright stupid messages that bombard me while I’m waiting for the commercial break to end and bring back the freakin’ music already before I throw something hefty against the TV/radio.
  2. Companies that think they can get away with using an unsung musical genius’s timelessly beautiful and ethereal music to sell themselves since said unsung musical genius became worm chow a long time ago and can’t keep this kind of travesty from happening (I’m looking at you, AT&T).
  3. The demographics that I’m falsely assumed to be part of by every TV station/radio station/music magazine that I consume regularly.  Expect a feminist take on the implications of these so-called “target audiences”.
  4. Whatever happened to certain so-called music channels (*cough-cough* VH1 *cough-cough* MTV) actually being, ya know, music channels?
  5. Why I’m starting to re-think my ambitions to write for Rolling Stone magazine unless I start seeing some changes.
  6. Ways that I think music-related media can improve their attempts to pay the bills and/or pander to an audience.  Not that I’m an expert or anything on marketing.  I am, however, an experienced consumer.
Oh, yeah, and I’m also using this week as an excuse to incorporate lots of pictures accompanied by quotes by some of my favorite obscure/semi-obscure pop-culture figures (mostly from The Mighty Boosh, now that I think of it) relating to what I think about various aspects of the media.  For example:

"Time for a break. Let's have a licorice rolly, a double brandy, and bitch about the industry. Who the #@&% is John Simm?" -- Montgomerey Flange, the greatest actor who's never lived (outside of the Boosh Universe, that is).

P.S.  To any of the few readers I may have:  feel free to post your opinions in the comments section.  I get lonely talking to myself all the time over here.  I need some feedback.     

 

I Never Thought I’d Look Forward to an Episode of “That Metal Show”… June 11, 2010

"Does this guy know how to party or what?!" --Wayne Campbell

…but I’m looking forward to the episode premiering tomorrow at 11:00 p.m.  Why, you may ask?  Oh, I dunno, maybe because ALICE FREAKIN’ COOPER, THE COOLEST OLD-SCHOOL METAL DUDE IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD is going to be on the show.  That’s why I’m looking forward to this particular episode of what I normally consider to be one of the blandest programs on VH1 Classic (I guess maybe it’s ’cause I don’t really consider myself a metalhead, though I do like a good deal of old-school metal.  And maybe it’s because the show’s a little too much talk, not enough rawk for my tastes).  But if anyone can make it worth watching, it’s Mr. Cooper.  I mean, come on, the guy makes golf seem almost badass.

 

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”.

 

Things I Learned About Music This Month From Watching TV June 19, 2009

The past month has been an incredibly lazy one for me.  Now that I’m out of school for the summer, I haven’t really had much incentive to do much of anything, including writing on this blog.  To tell you the truth, I’ve spent the majority of the past month sitting on my butt and watching TV.  However, though this time could have doubtless been better spent, all this time watching TV (particularly late on Sunday nights when I really should have gone to sleep already) has proven to be an unlikely source of material for this blog.  Here are the most important things I learned about music this month, all from watching TV.

 

1. Even the most awful emo band has hope for redemption. 

For the past few weeks, I’ve taken up the habit of watching Fuse late on Sunday nights for two stellar musical programs:  Live from Abbey Road and Later…With Jools Holland.  The former is an 90-minute program that features three bands or artists per episode.  The bands and artists perform a few songs at the legendary Abbey Road Studios (so named because it was where The Beatles recorded the legendary Abbey Road), and in between songs talk about their music and influences and all that jazz.  Well, the first episode that I saw of Live from Abbey Road featured Panic! at the Disco (I beg your pardon, Panic at the Disco.  They’ve apparently dropped the exclamation point some time between their previous and current album).  I probably never would have been exposed to Panic! at the Disco on my own accord, but I was unfortunately subjected to them against my will at torturous volumes by my former roommate at the worst possible times, like when I was trying to do homework or sleep.  So, needless to say, I never considered myself a fan.  However, what I heard on Live from Abbey Road surprised me.  It turns out that sometime between the first time I had to involutary listen to “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies” and the present, the band has not only dropped the punctuation mark from its name, but has also shed a great deal of its emo sound in favor of something a bit more mature and timeless.  What really had me convinced of this band’s potential was their cover of “The Weight” (originally by The Band), which was surprisingly, well, excellent (and I’m very nitpicky when it comes to covers, especially covers of bands I love by bands I don’t love).  Who knew?

 

2. Never judge a band by its name.

On Fuse’s Sunday night line-up, Live From Abbey Road is followed by Later…With Jools Holland, a British import hosted by enthusiastic middle-aged Renaissance man Jools Holland and featuring about five bands or artists a week from various different genres, each playing at least two songs, with Holland giving an occasional short interview with one of them.  One night this month, the show featured a band called Vampire Weekend.  I had heard of this band before, but had never had any interest in hearing them, and for a very shallow reason:  their name, which I automatically assumed could only be conceived by a bunch of pathetic emo and/or goth wimps.  Boy, was I wrong.  Turns out, Vampire Weekend does not sound anything like their name led me to believe.  In fact, they have a very upbeat, unique, and somewhat retro sound that I really like.  They also tend to infuse African percussive beats to their infectious indie pop-rock, which makes for an interesting juxtaposition that works surprisingly well.

 

3. Good musical sitcoms are not dead.

About two years ago, one of my college friends introduced me to the iconic 1960s sitcom The Monkees, and I instantly became a fan.  Not only did the show have great music, but it also had an element of psychedelic randomness that kept it interesting.  It was also the very first show of its kind.  Never before had there been a sitcom that centered around rock musicians and their crazy adventures.  Granted, as the show progressed, their crazy adventures had less and less to do with their being a rock band, but the important thing was that these four very different guys — the intelligent leader Mike; the hyperactive joker Micky; the naive hippie Peter; and the diminutive English ladies’ man Davy — shared the common bond of music.  And, without fail, each episode featured at least one song, usually accompanied by a romp — that is, a montage of random action that was often out of sequence with the rest of the episode — or, especially in later episodes, a music video at the beginning or end of the episode.  Alas, The Monkees only lasted for two seasons, yielding a mere 58 episodes.  Though the genre of musical sitcom has thrived since then, for a long time I was convinced that nothing within that genre nowadays — in the era of Hannah Montana and the Jo Bros — could even come close to being as entertaining as The Monkees.  But about two weeks ago when I was staying up inordinately late on Sunday night watching Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim program for some reason, I was introduced to the British cult phenomenon that is The Mighty Boosh.  Like The Monkees, The Mighty Boosh features at least one song per episode, and though it does not focus on a specific band per se, the two main characters are both very passionate about music and join several bands throughout the series.  Nervous intellectual Howard Moon (Julian Barratt) spends every morning in a “jazz trance”, and androgynous fad-surfing Vince Noir (Noel Fielding) idolizes Gary Numan and Mick Jagger.  The show is a match for The Monkees when it comes to random, low-budget surrealism.  Howard and Vince’s two closest friends (besides each other) are a shaman named Naboo and a talking gorilla named Bollo, and their adventures include journeying to the Arctic tundra to search for a valuable gemstone the size of a schoolboy’s head, avoiding getting raped by yetis (no, really, I can’t make this stuff up), and saving the jazz-allergic Vince from being destroyed by the Spirit of Jazz.  After discovering The Mighty Boosh, I’m happy to say that entertaining musical sitcoms are not extinct.