Erykah Badu’s Window Seat – Baring Body to Lay Bare Truth


Erykah Badu Window Seat Image

Erykah Badu In Window Seat

 

Erykah Badu’s new video for the single “Window Seat” is either art for controversy’s sake or controversy for art’s sake.  Either way, Badu is back and people are talking.  With over 36,000 views on YouTube, an article on CNN.com, and a variety of both pro and con blog postings, Erykah has made her statement.  Now, it’s time to assess what exactly that statement is.   

The video features a plainly—if not shabbily—clad Badu walking down a Dallas, Texas, sidewalk  and stripping butterball naked to the melodic base line of her thumping new song Window Seat.  Shot guerilla style in a single fluid take, the video ends with a fully nude Badu being symbolically killed at a spot near where President Kennedy was assassinated.  In the songs post script, a prostrate Badu lies on the ground; her voice cues in with a commentary on the problem of group think: ““They play it safe, and are quick to assassinate what they don’t understand.”   How timely Badu’s video is with the resurgence and proliferation of militia groups, hate websites, and tea bagger propaganda.   

Erykah Badu is everyone’s favorite flower power, bohemian, sister friend, diva-activist panther, earth mother, soul child.  I love her.  I was just remarking to a friend how On & On changed my musical journey, nearly 15 years ago.  She has always been quirky.  Among other personal anomalies, Badu has carved out a unique musical and physical aesthetic.  In a music industry full of blond lace fronts and Herve Leger dresses, she has a proclivity for rocking large afros, locs, and even a shaved head at one time.  In this video, she rocks a stocking cap.  Her personal style evokes Jimi Hendrix, meets George Clinton, meets Velvet Underground with some combination of Bob Marley and Janis Joplin thrown in for good measure.  Either foreshadowing or critiquing Hollywood strange baby naming trend, Badu’s children are named Seven, Puma, and Mars, respectively.   Her songs are lyrical, challenging, and intelligent and basically the sister is just deep.  

Window Seat is no exception and I say it again:  how timely this video is.  Time for a toast… 

Here, here Badu a toast to you! Way to rage against the machine.  Way to stand apart and be an individual.  Way to risk it all, when we all see what happen to Alanis Morisette’s  career, after she tried nudity as political commentary in 1997.  I only hope folks will not get so hung up on your dunk that they miss the underlying thesis of this powerful piece of political art.   

This is the second time in as many weeks that a music video featuring nudity has caused mainstream controversy; Lady Gaga’s crotch now feels relatively tame compared to what Badu has achieved.  Gaga’s video is subversive in its critique of commercialism, sex, violence, misogyny and feminism, but Badu is going for the jugular of this political and cultural moment.  

It is not an accident that this video is coming out around same time a Christian militia group “Hutaree” was taken down by Federal officials in the Michigan boondocks.  Nine members of the group are being brought up on “sedition and weapons charges for a plot to kill law enforcement officers in hopes of inciting an antigovernment uprising” (http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/the-new-militias-vs-government/).  I am all for personal liberty, but it floors me that individuals are allowed to stockpile weapons in the woods and plot on how to take down the Nation.  Beyond this ludicrousy, is the fact that in certain circles such behavior is considered patriotic.  

Therefore, Badu’s video cannot be viewed outside the context of the times we are in.  The nation is politically polarized and each side (for those who choose to take one) is completely indoctrinated by the bloviating talking heads of cable TV and AM radio.  For example, the propaganda and outright lies spread about the healthcare legislation were swallowed en masse by folks who are also apparently prone to believe that our President is a communist, not an American citizen, part of a new world order, and potentially a sign of the apocalypse (see Terry Gross’ interview with Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center).    

Badu’s video critiques the problem of group think that is not only assassinating civility, but is potentially sending us down a more dangerous path.   The feeling s of tension in the nation needs to be addressed.  Hope and change, while inspiring at best– and if not– at least innocuous to most of us, is a very threatening prospects for certain segments of our country.   We saw that with the Kennedy’s assassination almost 50 years.  Let this video’s allusion to this tragic event wake us  up to the fact threats on our President’s life are real, the problem of race in this country needs to be addressed, and there are more important things happening than American Idol and Dancing with the Stars.  

Sometimes, you have to do what is right and it is not going to make you popular.   You will be misunderstood, judged, criticized, obscured, and at worst ignored.  

Ms. Badu:  You bared your body to bare some truths about this cultural moment.  Thanks.

Who the Hell is Justin Bieber and Other Musings on Blue-Eyed Soul


Okay, so added to the ever-growing list of memos I’ve missed is the one on Justin Bieber.  I guess it was lost on my desk, underneath those on Lady Gaga and Nikki Minaj.  Nevertheless, if you too are somewhat removed from the 18 and under set, let me fill you in on what you have missed.  Hailing from Canada, Bieber is the latest pop/R&B wunderkind.  Nowadays, the demographic and size of his fan base mirrors and may even rival  that of Miley “Hannah Montana” Cyrus.  Suffice it to say, he has the teen-bopper, heart throb game on lock.  His adorable doe eyes, messy rocker hair, and a baby face combined with his mean set of pipes make him commercial gold.   He has even sparked a number of large-scale mall riots—a prerequisite for heartthrob status— as first modeled by the Beetles and later  the Jackson Five, New Kids on the Block, and Hanson to name only a few.  Hoards of pre-adolescent girls are known to mob this young kid like he’s a 75% off sales rack at Charlotte Russe. 

 You can thank YouTube for Bieber’s rise to fame.  Videos of him covering hits from Justin Timberlake and Usher were posted to the popular video site.   He was then discovered by a music exec and, who in turn introduced him to Usher.  After meeting Usher, the teen was signed to the Raymond-Braun Music Group and the rest is a Blue-Eyed soul fairy tale. 

However, do not be fooled by the all the spectacle.  Behind his tween popularity and easy marketability is bona fide talent.  A gifted musician, Bieber plays the guitar, trumpet, piano, and drums.  His new album My World 2.0 even received high praise from the Washington Post:  “If we truly want the best for America’s children, let us pause and give thanks for Justin Bieber.”  I streamed a part of the album and I can say that the kid has descent enough voice.  However, Bieber’s androgynous tone and sugary sweet tracks are at times akin to fingernails running down a chalk board to my ears.  Nevertheless,  I can say his material and vocal ability are far superior to that of Cyrus and his other contemporaries.  If Bieber models himself after his mentors—Usher and Justin Timberlake—he will have no problems transitioning from teen sensation to pop superstar.

Bieber’s out of the box success got me thinking about my favorite blue-eyed soul acts.  As defined by Wikepdia, blue-eyed soul is rhythm and blues or soul music performed by white artists.  The term was first used in the mid-1960s to describe white artists who performed soul and R&B that was similar to the music of the Motown and Stax record labels”.  Seen as cultural appropriation in some circles, white musicians making music with an African American aesthetic is nothing new.  In its worst incarnations, blue-eyed soul described black music being made digestible by white performers to accommodate white audiences,  particularly during segregation.  However, in the best connotations of the term, it can be used to describe some of the most talented musicians in the industry, who broke racial barriers and created art beyond racial and ethnic traditions.   As a result—music politics aside—every now and again  white artists successfully tap the hearts of soul music fans, with authenticity, talent, funk, rhythm, and blues.  So here is my list of favorite blue-eyed soul acts:

Teena Marie – Lady T’s instrument is unmatched and sadly unsung; she is a true diva and a vocal powerhouse Listen to: Fire and Desire & Square Biz

Jon B. – Former Babyface protégé, Jon B. is the original Robin Thicke.  His sultry love songs and lyrical melodies are a regularly included in my slow jam mixes.  Listen to:  Pretty Girl 

Justin Timberlake– The man responsible for bringing sexy back gives us plush falsettos and funky beats courtesy of Timbaland—you gotta love that!  Listen To: Take it From Here

Average White Band – Play that funky music indeed! Listen To: Pick Up the Pieces

Amy Winehouse – Yeah she has  issues; but Back to Black is retro soul perfection  Listen To: Back to Black and Me and Mr. Jones

Hall and Oates –  Sure they gave us Private Eyes, but they also gave us “Sara Smile”  Listen To: Sarah Smile

Tower of Power – First interracial act on Soul Train.  Listen To: Track So Very Hard to Go—It’s guaranteed to put you in a good mood

Joss Stone Michael Baisden calls her white chocolate…she is no Teena Marie…but she is definitely a gifted soul singer, with potential for days.  Listen To: Got a Right to Be Wrong and Jet Lag

Robin Thicke – Was better when he was just Thicke. Pharrell keeps Thicke in his upper register too often and his real talent is rarely displayed.  Listen To: Thicke “When I Get You Alone”

The Righteous Brothers –  These brothers  (no pun intended) did their part to make Top Gun and Ghost classics. Listen To: Unchained Melody, You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling

So who did I miss? Who are your favorite blue-eyed soul acts and why?  Who flopped in this genre?  Who would you like to see take a stab at more R&B/Soul flavorings? 

Discuss.

Nikki Minaj: Why I am Not a Fan… At Least Not Yet.


Nikki Minaj intrigues me.  As a lyricist, her flow is well— for lack of a better term—animated and her features are catchy if not complex, but as a pop-culture spectacle she is the gift that keeps giving.  Lyrical prowess notwithstanding, her Jessica Rabbit like proportions, innuendo laden stage name, avant garde meets lady of the night fashion sense, and tendency to contort her face into exaggerated comical expressions has a lot of people asking, who is this chick? Where did she come from? And can we send her back?

My girlfriends and I were discussing Ms. Minaj this past weekend and the general consensus was Nikki Minaj equals enemy to all womanhood.  Granted, we are all part of the damn near thirty and over set and perhaps we are hopelessly out of touch.  However, as much as I want to like Nikki Minaj; I am still not a fan.  Yet, the motivations for my dislike were not immediately obvious.  

I thought at first I found her unseemly or common, but I remain a huge fan of Like Kim’ and Foxy Brown till this day and you cannot get too much nastier than the Queen Bee and the Ill Na Na.  In fact, I can remember being mortified in the ninth grade upon having my mom make me return the first Junior M.A.F.I.A. album  because of the lyrics.  Furthermore, I had the February 1997 Source Magazine with Kim—sans surgery—and Fox sharing the cover in matching pancake make-up and white tees, respectively.  Ogling the camera with their best come hither look, the rappers were set against a sprite green background, the cover asking the question, “Sex and HipHop: Harlots or Heroines?”

Foxy and Kim asserted agency over their sexuality and for a while excelled economically, if not lyrically, in the testosterone-driven, male dominated world of hip-hop.  Their aggressive marketing of their sexuality and use of their bodies to appropriate the hip-hop vixen as “brand” made them a sharp contrast to the Queen Latifah, Monie Love, and MC Lyte set.   Kim and Foxy set the precedent for the sexy female rapper, for better or worst.  For the most part, since Foxy and Kim, female rappers have had to utilize this “sex sells” model to breakthrough.  The obvious exception would be Lauryn Hill—who is much to my despair still M.I.A.   

With Lil’ Kim dancing with the stars and Foxy Brown and Remy  Ma dealing with ever mounting legal troubles, hip-hop’s estrogen level was nearly depleted, before Nikki Minaj came on the scene.  Of course, we did have the Diamond Princess “Trina”, not to be confused with Diamond and Princess of Crime Mobb fame as well as a few others; I’m sure.  Nevertheless, Minaj appears to be the hottest chick in the game, as it stands.  Does anyone know when Remy is getting out?

Minaj clearly pays homage to Kim and Foxy in her image cultivation, however, her attempts to mimic and appropriate feel very inauthentic to me.  Kim and Foxy were raw and unhinged on their tracks and in their early work there was a certain authenticity to their narrative—arguably because Biggie and Jay-z penned much of this material back in the day.  Minaj instead appears celluloid like the “Harajuku Barbie” she purports to be. For instance, when Minaj makes allusions to being a bi-sexual on Usher’s Lil Freak; it appears to be purely for shock value.  I compare it to straight girls kissing and gyrating on each other on in the club; clearly they are doing it for attention.  Guess what?  In both cases, it works. However, Minaj’s persona may have real world consequences as the 106 and Park crowd are clearly her demographic.  In contrast to my sister friends, my teenage nieces love her and this is more than a little troubling.  I worry that they lack the critical thinking skills at such a young age to deconstruct Minaj’s image from Minaj the person.  Moreover, I do not think she is to be emulated with her lyrics heavily referencing sex and violence.  Minaj is no role-model for young girls, but her imaging is carefully candy wrapped for their consumption.

After much consideration, I have figured out my problem with Nikki Minaj.  Essentially, I’ve become my mother.  This is the same argument my mother and I had about Lil’ Kim 15 years ago.  In the same way my mother believed Lil’ Kim was a raunchy, tasteless prostitute, I worry that Nikki Minaj is a bad influence on young girls with her gumball aesthetic and wild child antics.  It occurs to me that at fifteen I was able to like Lil’ Kim without wanting “to be” like Lil’ Kim. I can only hope the same is true for my nieces. 

 Discuss.

Hip-Hop Economics 101: Sponsors and Other Such Tom Foolery


Teairra Marí is back with a new single “Sponsor“.   If the title alone makes you in incredulous, hold on to your hats. 

Do you Remember Teairra Marí?  No.  Well if not, I’m not terribly surprised.  If the name is vaguely familiar, she first appeared on the Hip-Hop/R&B radar back in 2004.  Formerly signed to Roc-A-Fella, her most successful hit was the single “Make Her Feel Good”, followed up with such gems, as “No Daddy” and “MVP”.  Additionally, her resume includes leading lady cameos in music videos and “hosting” gigs at The Park at Fourteenth (a Washington DC night club).   Mari is not an overwhelming talent in terms of her vocal prowess and dance skills, however, her songs our rather catchy and she is a cute girl in a kewpie doll sort of way—two qualities that have skyrocketed many a pop career. 

Absent from the music scene for the last several years, Teairra Mari was as much a victim of questionable talent, as she was unfortunate timing.  She hit the scene around the same time as future powerhouses Ciara and Rihanna.  The latter of which was also a Roca-a-Fella artist and thus  Ms. Mari was unceremoniously dropped from the label.  However, now signed to Warner Records, her new single is a nod to materialism, ignorance, and possibly some weak form of prostitution. 

According to Wikipedia, “Sponsor” is the second single from Teairra Mari’s second album At That Point.    Written by Balewa Muhammad and Ezekiel Lewis of The Clutch and produced by LRoc, Ezekiel Lewis, and Balewa Muhammad, the song features largely talentless—but nonetheless infectious and ubiquitous—rappers  of the moment Gucci Mane and Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em.    The song is Mari’s ode to her boyfriend, boo-thang, significant other, or quite possibly pimp who pays for the things she wants, including but not limited to: gas, manicures and pedicures, Dominican blow-outs, and Italian shoes.  Now, Hip-Hop’s material culture is well documented and references to ice and designer labels are common fare.  However, the psychology of this song troubles me. 

In light of 50’s recent hit “Baby by Me” and most recent single “Do You Think about Me” as well as songs like Ne-Yo’s “Miss Independent” and Mario’s “Break Up”, intersections of finance and interpersonal relationships are again peaking in this hip-hop cultural moment. Accordingly, I believe “Sponsors” goal—however misguided—was to be a girl anthem in the style of TLC’s “No Scrubs” or Destiny’s Childs “Bills, Bills, Bills”.  However, the song misses the bar of these earlier hits because its lyrical content is not nearly as developed and it is does not celebrate girl power in any measurable way.  Unlike these hits of yester year, “Sponsor” does not critique a particular incarnation of manhood (term used loosely), it simply suggests that this man buys me things—presumably in return for my affection—and that is enough.  The most disturbing lyrics state:

Every weekend I see Dominicans in the chair just to bring out the features in my hair. Add a couple of tracks for flair my sponsor he go and buy buy buy. He must be a rapper, baller, doctor, dentist, corner boy, cook/chef  chemist(yeah). I don’t even care just as long as he don’t say bye bye bye.”

So conceivably, as long as she is getting material items of her desire this man’s occupation is of little to no importance.  Nor apparently, is his moral thermometer, intelligence, emotional stability, or any other measure of manhood.  Under this premise, Mari accepts anyone from the successful rapper to the local drug dealer, as long as he can “put the Louis” in her lap.   Granted she has not worked for a while, but why not buy your own Louis, Teairra?  You don’t need a sponsor when you’re Miss Independent.   

I am not naïve. I know a lot of women operate this way.  Hence, why in one single 50 is encouraging a woman to upgrade her lifestyle by having a child with him, and in the next song berating another woman for only thinking of him as a paycheck—a sponsor

I am not sure why the song “Sponsor” bothers me so much.  In the long scheme of things, Teairra Marí is not at the center or even measurably on the radar of cultural relevancy. However, I wonder do songs like this have real life consequences or are they just reflecting what is actually happening in our real relationships. 

Recently, a guy at a bar—during a feeble attempt to finagle my number—asked me something like, “You do make him pay for it, right?”  Supposedly, suggesting that any man I was seeing or would see in the future should be sponsoring me.  How this man was in the position to do so—with four kids and blue collar employment—is questionable.  Nevertheless, when I responded that I was perfectly able to purchase anything that I needed or wanted and was neither intrigued by nor attracted to such an arrangement; he left.  Go figure. What happen to “I love her ‘cause she got her own”?

Nevertheless, “Sponsor” raises the cultural question—should women require men to buy them things as a means to obtaining their affection?  Morally, the answer is clearly no.   However, with men increasingly suspicious of women’s intentions and chicken heads like LisaRaye (you will always be Diamond to me), now owning the term gold digger; I believe this pay for play dynamic is ruining the conversation between Black men and women.   Many men are willing to spend money to attract the arm candy of their desire.  An equal number of women are perfectly content with such an arrangement, despite the superficial fraudulence of it all.

I wonder is this dynamic hurting men and women seeking real connections in the dating scene?  Ladies are sponsors something we aspire to or is independence the true route to happiness?   Gentlemen, have you experienced a woman wanting the sponsor treatment?  If so, how did you respond?  

Discuss.

Girls Behaving Badly – Blogging the Bad Girls Reunion


There is nothing remotely socially redeeming about Oxygen’s The Bad Girls Club.  It is trashy reality T.V. at its finest.  If it were the Real World, the housemates opening narration might state: 

This is the true story of seven, no six, perhaps five, no four… self-proclaimed bitches…picked to fight in a house…party and drink together…make out with each other….and have their lives taped and poorly edited…to find out what happens…when a network manipulates a group of young egomaniacs with a variety of mental, emotional, and social disorders and no moral compasses ….into moving in to a huge tacky white mansion…. to see what happens…when said bitches stop being accountable, responsible, or reasonable and start getting exploited…THE BAD GIRLS CLUB, LA

Perez Hilton is hosting the two-part reunion special which will reunite: Portia, Florina, Natalie , Kate, Kendra, Amber, Annie, and Lexie.  The season has been filled with cat fights, blackouts, bleeps and blur-outs, eating disorders, bad bikini bodies, binge drinking, hangovers, sucker punches, random hook-ups, D-List celebrity cameos, racism, manipulation, and above all screaming.  Seriously, this show should be sponsored by Motrin for Migraines.

Thus far, the reunion is pretty much standard reality reunion show fare.   Hilton recaps the season showing highlights or low points of the past season.  His hosting—not unlike his blogging style—is snarky and even downright mean.  He tells casts member Kate that she is prettier on T.V., going on to state that he found her to be ugly on the show.  In this hello pot this is kettle moment,  he equates sleepy eyed Kate to an uglier Ashley Tisdale.  Hmm.

The promoted fireworks began as controversial cast member Natalie Nunn  sashays the catwalk to the set, attempting a one woman coup d’état of the broadcast.  She assaults Kate spitting in her face; basically showing herself to be  a common trash box, without an ounce of class or dignity. 

Little Miss Natalie’s egomania is epic.  Her name was all over the blogosphere prior to the season premier of  this seasons show.  Gossips sites had her hooking up and/or partying with Chris Brown.  In his post Rihanna haze, he might have mistaken her for a potential boo-thang, but I highly doubt it.  Yet, jump-off status is not out of consideration.  Her mantra being “I Run L.A.”, Natalie’s other claims to fame include hooking up with a member of the Celtics warm-up squad, befriending Moesha’s little brother, and getting her full-sewn in removed on national T.V.—quite the resume. 

Natalie got her kicks this seasons strong arming, beating up, and otherwise intimidating her roommates—nay Portia who at ninety pounds soaking wet kicked Natalie’s ass and was promptly booted from the house. Natalie then took the immature, sheltered, and apparently hot in the draws Kendra under her tutelage, whose getwit proclivities made her the perfect target for Natalie’s manipulation. 

Star struck, fame hungry, cute faced, and laced with a new weave, Kendra did manage to accomplish something her sensei has not thus far, landing new reality TV gig.  She landed a starring role on the new Oxygen series Bad Girls Clubs: Love Games.  In a classic case of student teaching the master, the Charlotte N.C. native is clearly looking to make her mark on L.A.  Who runs L.A. now Natalie? [Clearly Antonio Villaraigosa and not Kendra, but hey it was fun to say).  Nevertheless, BET is reporting that a reality show staring Ms.  Natalie Nunn  may be in the works.  I for one am waiting with bated breath for this one.  Perhaps, Olamide might get in on the fun.

The reunion show quickly devolved into more contrived cat fights, as “the claws came out”.  The girls continue to belittle, berate, and bash each other for a full hour.  I guess one remotely positive moment was when cast member Amber shared in a sincere and heartfelt moment her joy in the fact that she was several weeks pregnant.  Of course this news can only be welcomed as positive, if you think any of these women possess the maturity and wisdom to parent a productive member of society.  What’s more, she did not help her ongoing case to not be considered trailer trash, when lifting her billowy empire dress to her navel at Hilton’s request to see her pregnant belly.  One word: tacky.

I’ve been wanting to blog about this show all season.  It prevails upon me a profound sense of disgusts in so many ways, but simultaneously I find its train wreck aesthetic absolutely intriguing.  By a certain age most women have had our sloppy drunk, bad hook up, cat fight, flying off the hinges moments.  Yet, the mentality of an individual who would  exhibit this behavior in exponential proportion, while on national TV is beyond me.  No doubt they must see this kind of exposure as a catalyst for fortune and fame.  Yet, I wonder how Florina will explain her psycho tantrums to future employers.  Sure Natalie plans to marry money, but her dating pool may be shrinking after any decent man gets a whiff of her on air debauchery.  Similarly, Annie showed herself to be a neurotic weirdo, with poor social skills.  Boston native, Kate showed a propensity for either racism or stupidity, when suggesting she did not want to go to a sweaty Black club.  I’m still not clear if she had a problem with the black people or the sweat, but it’s neither here nor there at this point.  Employers may also have a problem with her getting the reach on poor Annie, with reality TV’s best/worst sucker punch, since Snooki got flambéed.  In a sensible and warranted move, Annie filed charges against Kate for punching her in the face without provocation or cause.  Despite Kendra’s illogical protest, Annie was right; actions do have consequences.  Accordingly, Lexie may, in fact, find it difficult to say get a security clearance, after spending much of her abbreviated season [Lexie replaced cast member Portia] nude.

When it said and done, I am sure these women will try to leverage there appearance on this show into opportunities to generate money.  Perhaps other reality shows, endorsement deals, and hosting gigs may be in their future, but the price they may pay for fame could be high.  Their visions short and consequences seemingly a non-issue, their poor choices seem like good clean fun today. Yet I can pretty guarantee that Natalie will never have the opportunity to “run L.A.”, not only because she is running herself into the ground with these antics, but her reputation is ruined.  People will negate the fact that she was a star athlete and good student at USC, a highly respected and venerable institution.  Yet, they will recall  her biting, clawing, spitting, and bloviating her way into the annals of reality TV history. 

So is the Bad Girls Club harmless fun or dangerous exploitation? Are the women agents of their own image creation or are they being manipulated for money-making corporate entities?  Does this hurt women’s relationships in the real world?  Can the damage to reputations be repaired or will video follow these young women forever?

Is it worth it?

Thoughs.

Lady Gaga’s Telephone Video – A Pop-Culture Play Land


With her new video for the single Telephone, Lady Gaga blends art, consumerism, sex, violence, media,  and a little Beyoncé and creates a smart and refreshing nod to post-modern surrealism.  Directed by Jonas Åkerlund, the cultural references abound in this beautifully photgraphed and controversial video.  They are so plentiful that MTV.com has provided you with not one, but two pop-cultural cheat sheets to help you over-analyze the video—first premiering on MTV and then later rumored to have been banned from the network.  

For its part, MTV.com is reporting that the video has not been banned from MTV and will continue to run on the station (when and if they do decide to actually play music videos). If MTV had banned the video, it is arguable to whether they would have been justified.  The network regularly features girl on girl violence (and even guy on girl violence, i.e. Snooki’s lament), girl on girl kissing, blurred nudity, and blatant product placement.  I mean seriously, all this can happen in one segment of the Real World.  The Lady Gaga video does all this, but in an old is new again way that should please her fan base.  If you are not sufficiently offended, Gaga also gives you a crotch shot, barely covered mammaries, a mass murder, heavy lesbian innuendo, and blatant nods to S&M.  Perhaps the most offensive thing about the video to some circles will be its obvious feminist critque.

The video goes far beyond I am woman hear me roar; its more like I am woman watch me use equal parts sex and violence to erase male social, cultural, and economic dominance…or to just kill.  Tyrese’s character objectified a woman patron and is shortly there after poisoned to death.  Black widow indeed.  Goodbye hegemonic masculinity; hello girl on girl make out session and tortuously high stiletto boots…right?  Perhaps not so barrier breaking after all , nevertheless the experts have plenty of content to analyze, under a feminist critique.

Gaga channels everyone from Gwen Stefani and Madonna to Michael Jackson and  Marilyn Manson.  Beyoncé gets in on the fun giving us a little Bettie Page and fueling rumors that she will indeed be our next Wonder Woman.  We also get a little Thelma & Louise action, a lot of Quentin Tarantino, and I seeing the influence of Baltimore film director John Waters (Cry Baby, Hairspray, as well. 

What else rocks about this video?  The fashion.  The shoes alone are worth a watching the entire almost ten minute long video at least twice. The video showcases everything from literally smoking spectacles (which chic, crazy, and ironic).  If cigarettes are indeed currency in jail, then the shades Gaga is rocking are like jailhouse Gucci. Also, be sure to checkout Gaga’s black and white graphic suit and insanely large fedora.  Beyoncé rocks a yellow strapless patent leather number with a matching cowgirl hat that is just fashion eye candy.

This video is what Madonna would have done today, if she weren’t heavy into yoga, Kabbalah, and mothering orphans.  Its not safe, but its critique of social norms is so deafeningly loud its goes beyond simply courting controversy.  I think maybe Gaga was looking to get banned?  I mean the rumors will definitely help the songs popularity and raise curiosity about the video. 

So what did you think? Does Telephone ring your bell or gravely offend you?  Is Lady Gaga diva or devil?  Did Lady Gaga manage to make Beyoncé interesting or at least not so safe?  Was this pop-culture commentary or overkill?

Thoughts.

Why is Jennifer Aniston Famous?


Okay folks….let’s do a little content analysis to answer a question that has plagued  me for some time now.  Why is Jennifer Aniston so darn famous?  I know the same question can be asked about any number of… say… reality TV stars, but the spectacle that is Jennifer Aniston continues to perplex me.  Perhaps this is because she is so universally loved and yet she leaves me completely uninspired.

Okay, it’s not lost on me that I may seem the bully, picking on one of America’s most beloved sweethearts.  However, I am convinced that there is a vast Hollywood conspiracy to keep this woman employed, despite the fact that her acting is generally vapid and without range.   I also find her voice a little grating and at times shrill. 

Every time I see Jennifer Aniston in a film, I never forget I am watching Jennifer Aniston—former wife of Brad Pit, tabloid princess, seemingly launched into superstardom based on her tragic love life—this combined with the fact that someone gave her a fly haircut back in the day.  I mean c’mon everyone liked “The Rachel”. 

If you surf over to IMDB, Aniston has no less than eight films in development and is working on at least few others.  Can this be credited to an incredible and laudable work ethic, luck, or just the alignment of the stars? I know she recently got naked on GQ.  Sex sells, so I am sure this move did not hurt as a resume padder. 

If you scroll down to her current credits, you will find a number of mediocre films, in which she played pretty much the same character.  Her character archetype is usually the cute, down on her luck, lovelorn girl.  In summary, she plays herself and for that matter her Friends character Rachel in a lot of her films.  Perhaps this is because so much of her material consists of romantic comedies, with  notable exceptions being  Derailed and Friends with Money, the latter of the two being some of her best work. 

Googling Jennifer Aniston as a search term goes far to revealing why she is so famous.  For instance, related searches for her name include: jennifer aniston movies, john mayer, jennifer aniston hair, and drum roll please…angelina jolie.  Okay, now we are getting somewhere.  We know that her films have something to do with her sky-high popularity.  I mean her acting isn’t for me, but taste are in fact personal.  However, I think these search terms suggests the rationale behind her fame can more so be attributed  to her storied personal life, sexual partners, romantic nemesis, and physical appearance.

Aniston’s Hollywood narrative is the good girl.  I mean she even starred in a film of that very name.  When Brad Pitt traded her in for dark, vampy, and  arguably sexually aggressive Angelina, I believe people embraced Aniston even more.  I think women in particular brought Aniston in to their homes and hearts. Like a  baby bird with a broken wing, they want to see her succeed; thus her wing is mended and her career soars, despite the personal fall.  Women like her; she is our friend after all and men want a woman like her, the sexy girl next door.

I find the Jennifer Aniston narrative to be kind of sweet, in a modern society where the bad girl—the bitch—is often rewarded, promoted, and imitated. I admit it is hard to critique the good girl and Aniston has been genius at cultivating this image.  She is just so darn nice; America wants her to win.  I am sure the Academy is busting at the seams to give her an Oscar.  She just needs the right role and she, like fellow sweetheart Sandra Bullock, will be a golden girl. 

If you google, Anti-Jennifer Aniston, you will not find the popular anti-celeb web postings, blog ravings, and other such pontificating.  Instead, you find that she has campaigned hard for anti-paparazzi legislation (I say not so fast they are helping you stay famous).   On the other hand, despite her globe-trotting humanitarianism and mothering of a rainbow tribe to rival Josephine Baker, Jolie widely disdained on the web.  There are anti-Angelina Jolie Yahoo! groups and there was even an anti-Angelina Jolie week.  An anti-Jennifer Aniston week would be downright un-American. 

Anyway, I digress.  I encourage you to go see Aniston’s new film The Bounty Hunter this week, if you must.  Aniston is in a rumored to be in a romantic relationship with co-star Gerard Butler (another non-story—story, in the life of Jennifer Aniston)

What can we conclude from our brief, unscientifc content analysis?  I suggest we learn that when it comes down to it Jennifer Aniston is really just like corn flakes.  They ain’t spectacular, kind of bland, but c’mon cornflakes aint nuffing wrong with dat.

Thoughts.