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.

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2 Comments

  1. I CAN’T EVEN COMMENT. ‘NUFF SAID. YOUR COMMENTARY WAS DEFINITELY ON POINT!

  2. […] her radical approach to confronting injustice of persecuted minorities.  Like Erykah Badu’s Window Seat, Born Free seeks to make a bold political statement about injustice—through asexualized nudity […]


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