Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Misadventures in Goofy Public Photoshoppery.

More Eye-itude—this time, a Blog-to-Blog: give Anneliese a prompt about Paul McCartney & ballet, replace the strictures of print with the intentionally punchy wink of the online division, & behold the bizarre, pictorialized response:

As you may have seen in recent dance news (assuming, you know, you read dance news), Paul McCartney made headlines for composing his first ever ballet, Ocean’s Kingdom—it’s the gentleman’s “Octopus’s Garden”—and enlisting the help of his daughter, Stella, to design the costumes. Apparently, it’s not considered nepotism when you’re the Walrus.

It was promptly panned with more than a hint of incredulous snark. NY Times reporter Alastair Macaulay points a finger: “We can blame the ballet’s costumes, by Mr. McCartney’s daughter, the fashion designer Stella McCartney: they’re intrusive, unflattering and clichéd.” Macaulay goes on to inquire if Ms. McCartney might require some aloe for that burn...

Today's Headphone Fodder:

For whatever reason, this song has been spinning through my head all morning—now alternating on my newest Spotify playlist with t.A.T.u's cover of "How Soon Is Now?"—stumbling listless through lady voices tracing young men's songs (see: the Zutons original of Winehouse's hit).

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Chiding Young Billionaires & Coping Via Playlist.

Good afternoon, Blogosphere. Time for another faithful cross-post from your favorite (& somewhat heinously active) Eye contributor. (I know, I know—I'll get back to my own profanity-laced Bowie-gushing ASAP—but it's at least cool that these are actually published, right?)

Today, it's a bit more of a blip—some humour, if you will—"Seriously, Mark?: An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg." (Because really now: some bonkers shit is going down on the ol' BookFace, & it is patently unacceptable.)

Mark, we need to talk.

First, it was that awkward second location of Chat. Then, you started sorting my friends into these mysterious “Lists.” Soon enough, my every sidebar was filled with bizarre tidbits of information, ranging from the humiliating (e.g., “More Photos of Person You’re Already Shamelessly Stalking!”) to the just plain hateful (believe it or not, I’d rather not be reminded that, on September 23, 2007, I happened to think my lunch was “awesum!! <3”).

Today's Headphone Fodder:

It's perhaps apt that I'm starting with Mr. Zuckerberg, given that his recent portrayal in The Social Network showed us a young man obsessed with exclusivity—with belonging, being "in"—if only because, this past week, I was subject to the rather unpleasant (but, I'm sure, necessary, adult) experience of being turned down for something to which I applied—in layman's terms: being Rejected.

Sure, it sucked, for lack of a more artful expression—but really, in moments like these, one rarely has the requisite drive to be artful, to do anything more than wallow, situated squarely in a Funk (& not the fun "ph-" kind, like Fergie sings about—this is some we know Major Tom's a junkie shit).

Still, there comes a point when enough is enough—when you can't deny that the sun's still rising & personal rainclouds seem increasingly ridiculous—when you have to realize that, honestly now, you are a Grown-Ass Woman (because, regardless of personal gender expression, in this moment, we are all Grown-Ass Women), & it's long past time to scrub off stray eyeliner, pull up your pantyhose, & Make a Fucking Playlist.

So, here it is—for any & all of us who've felt that castaway sting, who've muddled endless through those infamous Five Stages & landed, at last, upon:

10-5-11: Acceptance.
[ ^ Click to hear the whole thing! Via YouTube! In order! Continuous-like! ^ ]

Rejected—Flight of the Conchords.
Get Over It—Ok Go.
Wandering Star—Portishead.
Oh! You Pretty Things—David Bowie.
Eleanor Rigby (4 Centers Dubstep Remixxx)—The Beatles.
Shut Me Up—Mindless Self Indulgence.
It's Alright, Baby—Komeda.
The Passenger (Live)—Iggy Pop.
Angeles (Live)—Elliott Smith.
You Oughta Know—Das Racist.
Golden Hours—Brian Eno.
She Hates Me—Puddle of Mudd.
Good Day—The Dresden Dolls.
Your Name is Jake—Dr. Skinnybones.
[** Not on YouTube, but FREE-DOWNLOADABLE on BANDCAMP.]
Whip My Hair (Drowning in Blood)—Skull Tape (Willow Smith cover).
It's Not—Aimee Mann.
It Ain't Gonna Save Me—Jay Reatard.
Forest Whitaker—Brother Ali.
So What—P!nk.

[ NOTE: Though, of course, these are meticulously organized for your listening pleasure into an 80-minute whole, I would like to single out "Your Name is Jake" by Dr. Skinnybones—not only because it is not, as you may have noted, included in the YouTube playlist—but moreover, because it's a delightful new addition to my collection, a perfect anthem for room-bound slam-dance comebacks. ]

Sunday, September 25, 2011

"Carpet-pissing, kidnapping, pornographers, & nihilism" (is a phrase I got published. You're Welcome.)

Ack!—a few days late on re-posting this one. It's this new schedule of mine—limbs churning tireless like a hamster on a caffeine drip—but buoyed, always, by the knowledge that I'm doing what I love (designing, film-learning, tofu-cooking—all them essentials of my awkwardly burgeoning Grown-Up-itude). Who needs sleep when you have iCal, says I.

Anyhow, to counterbalance my somewhat manic contentment, here's a few paragraphs of Eye-ly blather on that beloved Slacker extraordinaire, Mr. Geoffrey "The Dude" Lebowski:

“In wayfarer’s worlds out west was a man,
A man I come not to bury, but to praise,
His name was Geoffrey Lebowski call’d, yet
Not called, excepting by his kin.”

Thus begins Adam Bertocci’s “The Two Gentlemen of Lebowski,” a re-working in full Shakespearean verse of the Coen brothers’ 1998 cult classic The Big Lebowski—that now infamous tale of carpet-pissing, kidnapping, pornographers, and nihilism, with a few marmots thrown in for good measure. It was the cover of this unlikely book—a be-sunglassed Bard holding a bowling ball the way Hamlet might a skull—that first caught my eye upon entering The Little Lebowski, a small store near Washington Square Park (215 Thompson St., to be exact) entirely dedicated to the vending of all things Dude...

Today's Headphone Fodder:

Okay. Um— Okay. I don't quite think I can even begin quantify my feelings about the existence of this recording. What I can tell you is that, a week or so ago, mixing & mingling at one of many year-starting galas, I fell into a rather serious Bowie Conversation with some young gents—during which I jumped, squealed, danced, gestured vigorously, & at least twice interrupted to remark how awesome it was to nerd out like this—you know, all those charming, spastic Bowiephilisms that guarantee me more mental health referrals than phone numbers. Anyhow, in the course of our discourse, this recording was mentioned, &—after an incredulous squeal & jump & a few much-needed hours of sleep—I finally tracked it down.

This is, no question, one of my favorite songs of all time—note it, quoted, in the first line of my wee tongue-in-cheek Bio (to the right)—& the fact that Bowie liked it enough to cover it— His voice, scratching & cracking over the lyrics— To feel that kind of connection to your heroes— The same Bruce Springsteen song! I— We— Garble— Squeal— Melting.

Honestly, though:

1) Pick an artist whom you idolize to a sickening degree.
2) Pick another artist whom you regard as a sort of nostalgic, not-quite-guilty pleasure (e.g., inextricably associated with driving around in your old car with your mother)—of whom you have no real reason to believe Artist 1 is a fan.
3) Imagine that Artist 1 covers, not just any song by Artist 2, but the song—not some obvious chart topper, but an identity-defining B-side that you love, intensely.

Now, try to contain yourself while writing about it prose English.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

In Which I Rise From the Dead (Or, Well, Hiatus) to Talk About Zombie Lit.

Oh hey there. Not like it's been three months or anything...

I know, Reader, I know—but times are tough: buried beneath mounds of camp directing, now giving way to heaps of schoolwork, I hardly have time to breathe, let alone weave together complex musings on the eminent hotness of Michael Fassbender (the upcoming topic in my ever-accumulating pop-arsenal—get psyched).

Still, there are some chances that are too good to pass up: when The Eye contacted me towards the end of summer with a pitch about the rising popularity of zombie literature, despite being so thoroughly burned by them in the past (oh, Annaliese & her morays...), I snatched at the opportunity to muse about the scribed undead.

The piece was published today, & I'm happy to report that this time around, they were generously faithful to my original copy—only a couple of meaning-altering edits ("years-long" to "year-long," "fake-bloody" to "fake-blood," repeating the word "faux" twice in two sentences, etc.). Moreover, speaking from a place of giddy narcissism, I'm almost happier to report that I've now officially gotten my picture in the paper—& blood-drenched to boot. I expect a call from Hollywood any day now. (Many thanks to Adam Hawthorne & Steve McGowan for taking the photos!)

So, without further ado, here it is: my torn, reanimated hand grasping from out the muck of these past inactive months. Enjoy.

They came in hordes: limping lopsided through Boston’s poshest districts, trailing clothing strips and rubber limbs, snarling peppermint-flavored blood at unsuspecting brunchers—because, well, there are worse ways to spend a Saturday. These hundreds of brave and faux-battered souls were none other than the eager participants in Boston’s seventh annual Zombie March, an occasion for any ex-makeup artist or horror enthusiast to break out some spirit gum and stroll brokenly through the streets. As startling as a mob of faux blood-drenched adults hobbling through Sephora might be, the existence of the march itself should come as no grand shock, if only because, in recent years, zombies have been lurching their way into every aspect of our pop culture with gusto—especially, and perhaps surprisingly, onto the literary scene...

(Here's the downloadable PDF—pages 12 & 13.)

Today's Headphone Fodder:

Okay, this officially sucks, because my musical taste has gone through several full cycles these past mute months, such that the thought of summing it all up with one song is daunting if not impossible. As much as I would like to take the next hour to put together a downloadable ZIP file playlist (à la "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday"), the aforementioned heaps of homework beckon—so, if you'll permit, I'm going to put that task aside & trust you to understand that the following is, true to its name, the music of today & today alone. That said, the track currently gracing these staticking white earbuds is:

Bopping but unconventional, like the best output of this particular glam-pop outfit, this is one of those songs that manages to sum my life up perfectly, in lyric & tone: daylight, I'm so absentminded, nighttime meeting new anxieties... An upbeat ditty dipping its toes just far enough into the profound, it's the perfect song for chowing down film theory, for nagging yourself out of bed to attend 10 AM lectures thereupon—for buoying the hazy, aimless summer drives I'm doomed, for now, to miss.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Rejected Little Boys: Some Thoughts About Odd Future.

[ A (Pseudo-)Topical Preamble: So, the Rapture happened. My guess is, if you're reading this, you weren't sucked into some kind of vortex, yeah? Well, neither was I. So, I guess we can stop hating gay people in the name of God now? Right? Don't we basically have empirical proof of his noncompliance with the verbatim dictums of the Bible—à la Jesus's lessons to the Pharisees in Matthew, when he explains that the most important thing to do is love your neighbor, not castigate him based on the banal edicts in Leviticus? Ah, well—food for thought. Now, on to our regularly scheduled programming. ]

Some months ago, as some of you may remember, I posted a couple of songs by the up & coming rap collective Odd Future (or, OFWGKTA)—one of which was the much-hyped video for "Yonkers" by the group's founder, Tyler, The Creator. As a piece of promotion for his recently released album, Goblin, the song worked wonders, popping up everywhere, garnering hits & views galore, primarily—& I stand by this—because it's kind of brilliant. As I said at the time, the video is "really, artfully disturbing, all the more so for its simplicity"—&, meanwhile, the song itself trips lyrically skilled, with lines like I slipped myself some pink Xannies & danced 'round the house in all overprint panties—which, at least to me, at the time, seemed a somewhat braver broaching of the "homo" line than most established rappers would dare.

& so, with toes dipped only so far into the Odd Future phenomenon, I shrugged off critics' alarmist reactions to, say, his invocations of V-Tech & Columbine; in general, when it comes to issues like this, I tend to agree with what Tyler opines on his eponymous track:

They claim the shit I say is just wrong /
Like nobody has those really dark thoughts when alone /
I'm just a teenager...

& it's true: he is, & they are, & in the end, this is—as he makes sure to point out in an awkwardly placed "Random Disclaimer"—fucking fiction, his form of self-expression. Indeed, as an avid analyzer of gorefest flicks, even an eager consumer of chainsaw-sharp wit, it would be massively hypocritical of me to deny anyone their violent fantasies, those artful exorcisms of dark demons that otherwise trapped might wreak some real havoc. As far as I was concerned, Tyler was in the clear, & "Yonkers" continued to rack up playcounts, including plenty from me.

However, the more of his material I heard—snagging all the old free downloads, really taking it all in—the more I found it increasingly, gratingly difficult to put up with Odd Future's essentially omnipresent woman-bashing. Take, for example, this verse from "She (feat. Frank Ocean)":

1, 2, you're the girl that I want /
3, 4, 5, 6, 7, shit /
8 is the bullets if you say no after all this /
I just couldn't take it, you're so motherfuckin' gorgeous /
Gorgeous, baby, you're gorgeous /
I just wanna drag your lifeless body to the forest /
& fornicate with it, but that's because I'm in love with you /

Threats of violence, pseudo-prostitutional coercion (re: "But I bought you dinner!"), "I only do it because I love you" vileitude, desire for a woman who's nothing but a body, date-rape/serial sex offender imagery, rounding it all off with a slur—I mean, it's almost impressive the gamut this relatively quick verse runs. Then, of course, come Tyler's bevy of especially fun lines, of which I'll provide only a small fraction, including some from pre-Goblin endeavors (which, for the record, I tend to like better):

God damn, I love bitches /
'specially when they only suck dick & wash dishes /
cooking, cleaning, grant my wishes /
& make me & the Wolf Gang sandwiches

Fuck Tyler, I'm'a change my name to Uncle Phil /
'Cause every girl I fuck, it's always against her Will

Now you gotta spat, spit it out until you scat /
Then you gotta sat & shit it out, bitch, fuck your feelings /
You wasn’t feeling shit when you was down there kneeling /
Now shut the fuck up you got another dick to deal with
(Boppin' Bitch)

Compliment her tits & then it's off to hump her /
Fuck her in a Hummer, well I rape her, then I put her in a slumber /
It's not a figure of speech when I tell you that I dumped her

Fuckin' in my white van /
beat her with a nice white nightstand /
until I give her gashes where it's nothing but the white meat
(Blacc Friday)

Game of duck-duck-duck tape with a dead goose /
She running around this motherfucking dungeon, her legs loose /
Until I accidentally get the saw to her head, oops /
Victim, victim, honey you're my fifth one /
Honey on that topping when I stuff you in my system
(Tron Cat)

Now, fans of the band will no doubt jump all over me for that last one, because, of course, "Tron Cat" is a character Tyler raps in—comparable to Eminem's "Slim Shady," for lack of a less obvious correlate—the "voice in my head, telling me to do all this fucked up shit ... this shit that I don't wanna fuckin' do," as Tyler explains to his interpolated, voice-distorted therapist, "Dr. TC," at the end of the preceding track. Moreover, the lyric is obviously hyperbolic in, say, its suggestion of cannibalism—just like the first excerpt, from "Transylvania," could be defended as a comic recall of sexist tropes, ironic in its blatancy.

Still, I would ask you, gently, to please just look at the unrelenting trend here. Why is it that Tyler can't seem to bend his witticisms around some less hateful topic than degradation & rape? Why is it that the bulk of his dark fantasies aren't just violent, they're violent against women—&, why is it that, if this is all only a cathartic fiction, this blatant sexism sloshes over into even his least fantastical lyrics?

That's all I'm asking—but I think it's taken me so long to get here in part because Odd Future is so masterful at instilling real fear of dissent in their following. With accusations that critics don't get it, 'cause it's not made for them, interspersed with literal invitations for fans to join the gang, as it were (e.g., Odd Future, Wolf Gang / We came together 'cause we didn't have nobody else / & you? You just might be one of us / Are you?), they've created the most effective kind of Emperor's New Clothes groupthink: anyone who doesn't like it doesn't get it, & if you don't get it, you don't belong—& you want to belong, don't you?

The thing is, though, my intent is not merely to hate. In fact, I'm doing everything I can to "get it," because ultimately, I think it's redundant (& nonetheless done to death) simply to castigate Tyler & his cohorts for their clear & present bad taste. The ickiness of this rapey aspect is already apparent to anyone with sensory capabilities, & more importantly, I think the problem runs deeper than "Odd Future is misogynistic" or even "rap music tends to be misogynistic." I think the problem transcends music altogether—& that this very fact is, indeed, the problem.

For one thing, to snag another few lines from "Tron Cat":

I'm not a rapper, nor a rapist, nor a racist /
I fuck bitches with no permission & tend to hate shit /
& brag about the actions in a rhyming pattern matter /
Then proceed to sat her down when I go splatter in her chatterbox

Tyler (or his other alter ego Wolf Haley, or Tron Cat, or whatever amalgamation thereof we're listening to right now) doesn't consider himself a rapist—&, for all I know, he's not—but, just to be clear, someone who fucks bitches with no permission can't not be. (In fact, that's the most clear-cut definition of a rapist.) There is a line, to be sure, between word & deed—but the line seems to be ever blurring, perhaps because of these ever present words, between acceptable rhetoric & acceptable behavior—what it's okay to rap about & what it's okay to do.

Meanwhile—& more to my main thrust—I've kept in the rest of the verse to highlight the fact that, simply put, he's fucking talented. Really: if I could turn off my English comprehension & just listen to these fast-colliding syllables, the experience would be nothing but welcome. Unfortunately, I can't, so I'll just have to stay disappointed that this is the way these quick-tongued kids have chosen to express themselves—that, rather than grasp always for honesty or complexity, they've let themselves fall into one of the oldest wound-licking tropes. Indeed, in our culture, this predatory demeaning seems to be the standard for any dude down on his lady luck—rhetoric that's both accessible to & acceptable for rejected little boys who feel entitled to women's bodies.

Think back for a moment, if you will, to The Social Network—why I still can't stop gushing over Sorkin's achievement—because it plays out accurately & expertly this phenomenon that media so rarely explore with enough depth: the real, emotional pain felt by romantically snubbed young gents, & how that so often translates into the worst kind of misogyny. For example, the very first scene, the set-up for this tale of near-Machivellian revenge, is a break-up—a sudden, soul-crushing, character-lacerating dumping, to be exact—& what does our derided hero do? He sits down at his computer & writes "Erica Albright's a bitch," then proceeds to craft "Facemash," a comparative version of "Hot or Not" that directly objectifies his female classmates (only slightly more humane than his initial idea of comparing the women to farm animals).

Though this lady-centric thread soon gets trammeled up in a general theme of rejection—of geeks previously outcast seizing power in the technological age—it is by no means forgotten, if only because the last few heart-wrenching moments show Mark still desperate to connect with his former flame—&, moreover, because it's littered throughout the original script. For example, when Eduardo is later trying to explain why Mark didn't actually regret this much-derided first "Face-" foray, an early draft reads (on page 43): "With Facemash, he'd beaten the Harvard computers, he'd beaten the Ad Board, & he made the girls mad. Facemash did what he wanted it to do." (The film features a similar line, with the female element excised.) In short, Sorkin clearly sees what's up: that, when confronted with rejection, it's easy for boys to take a sexist society's cues & lash out at the entire female gender—objectifying these worthless sluts & whores, making them less-than—if only to avoid admitting that, maybe, there's something about themselves that was, in this case, unlikeable—to make theirs a categorical turn-down by that bitch Womankind, nothing that could possibly be their own fault.

&—to pop back from our tangent—this is exactly what I see going on with Odd Future, as evidenced on Goblin by the solo stand-out "Her":

See, this is probably my second favorite song on the album—or, well, one of the few that doesn't make me cringe every few verses—because it's so clearly, painfully honest, even relatable:

She's so pretty, fuck self pity, I feel so shitty /
I wanna text her in a jealous rage /
But if she reply to say anything, I'm'a smile I know

I mean, really: we've all been there—second best once again, watching the romance we wanted through glass—enough to know it's a place no one wants to be. For another concrete example, the second song I posted in February—"Luper," by Tyler's missing bandmate, Earl Sweatshirt—tells a similar story: Earl's just been dumped, so he wallows in wonderfully alliterative metaphor—because when she left, it didn't break my heart, it broke my torso—but, when he sees her with another guy, things turn suddenly ugly:

The basement light is darkened & the switchblade is sharpened /
Her name on my arm & her face on a two percent carton /
See her face while you're fixing your breakfast /
& know she's in my basement, objecting to sex with /
me, murder spree, surges on with the next bitch /
Tombstones read RIP 'cause it's pieces they rest in.

There's no denying that rejection, put plainly, sucks. Nobody wants to feel unwanted, & seeking some relief from that kind of pain is more than understandable—is even, according to German theorist Ludwig Feuerbach, the origin of the religious impulse: that we absolve ourselves of any guilt at not measuring up by abstracting our best qualities (e.g., omnibenevolence) to God & thereby claiming them fundamentally, categorically unattainable. If we couldn't have them in the first place, then it's not our fault for failing—a statement that soothes both mortality & unrequited love.

However, in this sex-centric case, the problem rears its head when these boys, from Zuckerberg to Sweatshirt, use the cheap anesthetic our culture hands them: loudly claiming that the women who reject them, & through them women in general, are bitches & sluts whom they'd prefer to look at or fuck (or even rape) than acknowledge as people with brains & faculties & decision-making capabilities that could possibly have turned them down.(This is, I would assert, precisely why OFWGKTA are so openly disdainful of—or, really, threatened by—lesbianism, "dykes"—women who by definition have no interest in them.) Thus, this kind of extreme linguistic degradation also represents a form of fantastical catharsis, to be sure—one which Odd Future has gleefully enmeshed with violence—but one that I find far more problematic than its merely gory counterparts, because it takes place at the expense of an entire gender's self-worth—because the phenomenon it exemplifies really isn't so fantastical after all.

Take, for example, the very issue of access to this vengeful lyric idiom. If a woman were to go to similar heights—viciously, categorically lashing out at the male gender—she'd be labeled one of those feminists: the frigid, persnickety, uptight wet blankets whose misandrist overanalyses drain the fun out of everything, especially pop culture—who dare to think of themselves like people, not sex furniture, & who are thus adequately punished. By my count, it's the most-used line in every young lady's arsenal—the one that never fails to sound like nails on a chalkboard as covered by the Black Eyed Peas, even to my jaded ears: "Sure, I'm a feminist, but I'm not, like, a feminist," or some variant thereof—anything to dilute the image of a bra-burning, hairy-legged ball-buster. Even the Lady herself, if you'll recall, took pains to remind us that she's "not a feminist. I love men. I hail men"—savvily greasing the skids of her own success, because, in the eyes of our culture, that's the worst thing a woman can be: a man-hater. Meanwhile, as we speak, Tyler, the Creator, who could easily be described as a woman-hater—or, who, at the very least, has made a name for himself through the loud & repeated practice, however "fictitious," of woman-hating—is rocketing to the top of the charts.

My point is not to encourage a bevy of tracks about once-rejected women slaughtering captive male sex slaves in their dungeons (though, you know, one or two might be fun). My point absolutely is, however, to point out this clear discrepancy in how it's acceptable for men & women to express themselves—to underscore why it is I scoff at anyone still wielding the term "post-feminist," & to recognize how, on some level, this implicit gag order on female artists—&, really, females in general—is liable to leave everyday ladies floundering in surplus hurt, unable to tap into this wave of abstracting anger when facing their own instances of rejection.

Even so, I still assert that the solution isn't to level the playing field, but to do what we can to shut it down altogether: as I've tried to make clear but can only make clearer, I think there's quite literally nothing to be gained from including in the doctrine of Female Liberation the necessity to objectify & demean men in some twisted power reversal—if only because, well, we clearly don't like it very much, so why impose that experience on anyone else? People should stop being crappy to people—because, as far as I've seen, all these cross-gender revenge attempts & ironic sexist recalls only continue to churn the gears of a fundamentally broken system, in which even todays "exciting, new" musical acts seem helplessly, perhaps happily trapped.

So, sure, I'll still listen to the odd Odd Future track—because, for example, it can be gut-wrenchingly fun for everyone involved to shout "kill people, burn shit, fuck school," to thrash out aggression with expressly harsh syllables—but I'll probably be straying away from the majority that propose to lock people with my similar chromosomal pattern in a basement. Because ultimately, hearing lyrics like that can be not only unpleasant, but honestly, palpably frightening—because, sure, it's a fantasy, it's fucking fiction, but that doesn't make the sexism therein any less real, or any less pernicious. Though Tyler will probably never really be afforded the chance to stab Bruno Mars in his goddamn esophagus, he's prone (& even apt) to degrade his female concertgoers—&, moreover, honestly, even if these particular people won't actually perform the particular acts they tout, they undoubtedly feel they've been given the right to tout them. As evidenced by OFWGKTA & Co., these stomach-churning rape jokes represent acceptable, even praiseworthy paradigms in which to express male hurt & aggression—their violence-laced indignation just the chicken to our culture's seemingly unbreakable misogynistic egg.

& this is what freaks me out most about Odd Future: that their music—both in & of itself, & in terms of its widely laudatory reception—is emblematic of the fact that, whatever feminism has accomplished, it may have, in short, removed the cause, but not the symptom. Men still feel entitled to tower aggressively over women—both within their savage rhetoric & in their very access to it—&, as these upstart youngsters help prove, the next generation only seems to be sinking us further into the regressive mire.

So, though I recognize that these gents are talented—quick-witted, alliterative, riding plenty of other cutting edges—I just can't get past the blind, tired pandering it takes to perpetuate this hateful lyric trope, all its retro backsliding & ultimately cheap catharsis. For all that Odd Future are shaking things up, they seem to have forgotten that this kind of woman-hating is the oldest, meanest trick in the book, hardly worthy of their youth & creativity. Ultimately, to crib a bit from Tyler's wordsmithery: fuck the fat lady, it's over when all the kids sing about something that's actually radical—not just reactionary sexism dressed up like it's something to be gawked at.

Today's Headphone Fodder:


Sometimes, you just really need to listen to this song. On repeat. For days.

This is one of those times.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Post-Mess Mix.

Like the Count of Monte Cristo emerging triumphant from a bodybag flung out to sea, I am writing to you today from inside the cozy purple walls of Bostonia—having miraculously survived the dreaded Finals Week & thus officially graduated to Upperclassmanship. More importantly, I can now look forward to a summer of reading & sleeping & Photoshopping with young'uns—&, indeed, reviving my long-flagging Blogsmanship.

Though I have a bevy of entries fizzing at the tips of my fingers—from hardcore philosophical musings to gushing over certain actors' preeminent hotness—I feel like it's appropriate, as a smooth transition from this most brutal of sleepless paper-splosions, to post the playlist that buoyed me through this past week—which, in my humble estimation, is pretty clutch. Without further ado:

5-7-11: I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday.
[ ^ Download the whole mix! In order! Click! Oh man! ^ ]

Going Down—Gerome Ragni (Hair, 1968 cast).
Breaking Glass (Live, Montréal, 7/12/83)—David Bowie.
Get It On At Le Disko (T. Rex vs. Shiny Toy Guns)—The Illuminoids.
The Hollows—WHY?.
Your Woman—Cats On Fire (White Town cover).
Itty Bitty Piggy—Nicki Minaj.
Less Than Zero—Elvis Costello.
Werewolf—Cat Power (Michael Hurley cover).
Soldier Girl—The Polyphonic Spree.
Diamond Crowned Queen—Raja.
Why Do You Love Me—Garbage.
Secretly Jealous—Coyote Shivers.
Melody Day—Caribou.
Hey—The Pixies.
Rolling in the Deep (Jamie XX remix, feat. Childish Gambino)—Adele.
Between the Bars (Live at Largo)—Elliott Smith.
Never Be Lonely—The Feeling.
Baby in Two—The Pernice Brothers.
Reptile—Lisa Germano.
I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday—Morrissey.
There's Not a Step We Can Take That Does Not Bring Us Closer—Jason Webley.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I Am Okay With / Not Okay With: Derivative TV Edition.

Living in New York City—or, really, any pseudo-metropolis in our image-ridden age—one is often made aware of a new product or event or film by means of on-street advertising. In fact, especially in New York City, certain firms seem to delight in finding new & exciting ways to inform us about their product, which results in all unholy means of adhering the image to every conceivable public surface, such that the simple act of walking down the street turns into a battle against eyeball assault—until one is So. Very. Aware. of this particular item that one could probably draw the poster in question jot for jot, blindfolded, with the pencil held between one's teeth. Of course, the Annoyance Factor of this phenomenon is only increased when these images advertise something that makes one cringe or laugh cynically aloud or murmur clenched-teethedly to oneself, "Are you fucking kidding me?"

Two such advertising campaigns for upcoming television shows have caught been shoved into my eye as of late, & aside even from their prevalence, they have irked me especially because, in my humble estimation, within 5 seconds of glimpsing each show's campaign, any human with a functioning frontal lobe could recite its (oft-parodied, referential) One-Line Pitch. Such an extreme level of Immediate Derivative Recall sends me into a postmodern tailspin of truly epic & despairing proportions—so, today, I bring you our contenders for least terrible new show on the block:

It's Like The Sopranos Meets The Tudors With a Splash of The Godfather & That Guy From Lolita.

Picture Law & Order With the Structure of 24 & the Concept of Twin Peaks.

Now, I know what you're thinking—"But you love Jeremy Irons! & crime shows!"—but just go with me on this for a minute: it seems insane to me that, in an age when Working in Pictures is not only a viable, but a popular career, ultimately accessible as a cell phone camera—when film schools are churning out graduating class after graduating class, & everyone within 50 miles of Hollywood has a script in their sock drawer—we are still making movies from books, movies based on true stories, sequel after sequel of Marvel comics blockbusters. Of course, almost all of those are marketing decisions—if people bought the book, they'll see the film, & at least Iron Man has a fast-food merchandising tie-in—but still: it's frustrating to me that so much "new" onscreen fare these days is basically the result of past successful formulae plucked at random from a bingo roller. These two shows in particular strike me as especially abominable reconstituted Frankensteins, cobbled from old Nielsen data & stitched together with the apathetic hope that today's TV audience really is that passive—then garnished with that especial audacity required to put the word "original," plainly, on both of these posters. It's enough to drive a girl to frenzy.

However, in this little system I've set up, one must triumph—so, following extensive research, a few laughs, & some bitter tears, our survey says...

I Am Okay With: That Salacious Period Drama Showtime Has Been So Desperately Lacking.

It's funny, because perhaps the most hilariously period-revisionist explosion of Awful—the show that, upon learning of its existence, had me convinced it was a parody or performance art piece—really anything other than a serious, dramatic television program about a sexified King Henry the Eighth—yes, that show, The Tudors—is Showtime's own pride & joy. Now, it seems, they're following the good old "Well, it worked once..." formula & lumping on The Borgias—the apparent laziness of which is frustrating in & of itself, but also, it gets on my "period drama" nerve.

I really don't like period dramas. Or—well—revise: I don't like the prevalence of period dramas. I just think there's something fundamentally stuffy & silly about them, as if their creators believe they've cracked the code to high culture simply by virtue of being set in a time when corsets were still mandatory. I also think this particular kind of "racy" period drama is somewhat done to death—the attempt to prove that people have always been just as callous & base as they are today, that scandal isn't a modern invention—all of which ultimately could be reduced to a man in pantaloons shouting into a megaphone, "People in the past had SEX! Oh man! So much sex they had!" Yes, Television, we're aware: we were born, after all.

Anyhow, I suppose that's more of a personal peeve—&, ultimately, after doing a little digging (one nose-held Google search, having been retina-clobbered by that ad a few too many times for comfort), I discovered that the show was created by Neil Jordan, who is fabulous & behind many a film I hold dear. So, on the grace of director & star (&, golly, WHAT A STARthat voice still slays me), I will let The Borgias skate through with a stamp of approval—& may even tune in, after glimpsing this hilarious set of GIFs.

I Am Not Okay With: Pacific Northwest Dead Girl Hunts That Exclude Kyle McLachlan Lynchian Bizarreitude.

Really, now: this trailer promises nothing even remotely as interesting as backward-talking dream sequences or salacious Canadian casinos—& you can damn well bet there's no body-snatching wildman to complete the whodunnit. Meanwhile, they're exploiting every conceivable crime show trope in the most banal way possible—&, honestly, even after Rizzoli & Isles, can we truthfully say that we're still interested in this kind of programming? Can't we just accept that the Law & Order Goliath has been felled, mourn a little, put on a brave face & find something new to make TV about? Please? (I'm looking at you, Law & Order: LA.)

Were this not enough, a quick scan of The Killing's Wikipedia page shows that it's the American remake of a Danish series that became popular in the UK. Yes, this is yet another Americanized re-rendering of a British phenomenon, which, in this case, happens to be a Danish take on American crime show convention—a clusterfuck of derivative sadness that is, clearly, not okay. Ugh.

Today's Headphone Fodder:

I feel it's only appropriate, after talking about derivatives & remakes, et. al., that today's musical offering be a cover. With that in mind, here are a few I've been (re)discovering lately—that, if memory serves, didn't make it onto the 55 Cover-splosion of months past (though such repetition would, in this context, be perversely wonderful...):

Zombie—Jay Brannan (Cranberries cover).

Personal Jesus—Johnny Cash (Depeche Mode cover).

Bang Bang, My Baby Shot Me Down—Paolo Nutini (Cher cover).

Maps—Rogue Wave (Yeah Yeah Yeahs cover).

&, the Champion:

Helden (Heroes, in German)—Rammstein feat. Apocalyptica (David Bowie cover).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Some Unexpected Motivation.

Dear Internet,

Though it's (hopefully) common knowledge among all y'all dearest Readers of mine that my musings here are purely recreational, casual, not meant to garner fame or fortune—hence the sporadic posting, ample ampersands, & ubiquitous use of terms like "fuck" & "donkey balls"—I do still enjoy, on occasion, perusing my viewership statistics. Blogspot is kind enough to provide this feature—"Stats"—that tells you your number of views, search terms through which people have found your page, even from what country & operating system these hits originate (in my case, a bizarrely high influx from PC users from Denmark).

More often than not, the information is banal, perhaps worth a giggle, but today—well—let me just say this: you know you're doing something right when your three most-searched terms to date are, in order, "gigantic breasts," "famous serial killers," & "Iggy Pop bleeding from chest."

So, in conclusion, thank you, Danish porn surfers. You love me. You really, really love me.

Hearts, donkey balls, & truly gigantic breasts,

P.S. Stay tuned for some reckoning on two upcoming TV series...

Today's Headphone Fodder:

It's no secret that Richard O'Brien (AKA, the guy who comes out of the toilet in Spice World—or, for those not living in my brain, Riff Raff) wrote a number of Rocky Horror's songs prior to the play's inception, before Brad & Janet & Transylvanian transvestites—which means that, though they work seamlessly enough within the musical, they also sound especially fantastic when performed by a band, stand-alone & punked out. (Please, for the love of all that is holy, check out The Rocky Horror Punk Rock Show—mentioned previously here.) "Superheroes" is definitely one such song—that two-step wail of the guitar, lyrics brimming with neo-Nietzchean angst—&, at least in my mind, the shouting of "stumble, stumble, fall!" after each line of the second verse, as besooted Janet can't quite keep her footing in the post-rocket mansion ruins. What the cover does so brilliantly, though, is bring this sentiment to a boil—implicitly beg you to dance through the bleak pronouncements, thrash to the bitter end—to stumble-stumble-fall, hard, with intent.

Monday, April 11, 2011

THF: Spoon For a (Pseudo-)Summer's Day.

It was over 70˚ today in Manhattan—in April—which of course was cause for much rejoicing & tank-top wearing & outdoor lounging—but which also, in turn, provoked some silly campus organization to set up a giant pair of speakers & bombard us innocent loungers with minutes upon minutes of Wiz Khalifa's braindeadery, Ke$ha's orgasming sneer-whine, etc. Partially to retroactively counter that assault—headphoneless as I was at the time—& partially just to share a song that deserves passing around, I present Spoon's cover of "Tear Me Down" from Jonathan Cameron Mitchell's rock musical tour de force, Hedwig & the Angry Inch:

Though the original will always remain near & dear to my heart—& though this album of covers, Wig in a Box, is packed to bursting with truly excellent renditions (including the Polyphonic Spree's take on the eponymous track, Frank Black doing "Sugar Daddy," even Stephen Colbert supplying the excised "Tear Me Down" interlude)—this particular track stands above the rest, especially when it comes to Warm Weather Music. Something about its Velvets-reminiscent simplicity, backed by that subtle swinging horn section, turns a once hard-rocking opening anthem into the perfect song for a summer strut—bare arms & sunglasses, laid back confidence, lips kinked sideways with an iced coffee straw & mind miles above, miles above.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Morays are eels. Mores are conventions. Which Anna Nicole defies.

Here it is, in all its typo-wrought glory: my article about the Anna Nicole Smith opera, committed, ever, to newsprint, & to the Eye website.

... Though Smith did enjoy a fair amount of professional success, looking back, one might call her a model the way John Wilkes Booth was an actor: chances are, when you say her name, the images conjured aren’t her tasteful black and white clothing ads. Rather, her legacy lives on in the rainbow of terrycloth tracksuits from her short-lived E! reality show—or the stale beige of courtroom footage, as we watched her fight for over a decade to gain retroactive inclusion in Marshall’s will.

It would seem, then, that upon learning this tawdry tale had transcended to the operatic stage, one might respond with a bemused head tilt, a raised eyebrow—all told, a general expression of: come again?

But wait—there's more: interviews with seasoned operati, a double-entendre invocation of molotov & alcoholic cocktails, overwrought metaphors about wax wings—&, of course, the eels. All them sexual morays...

Love, ever & on,
Your Faithful Annaliese

Today's Headphone Fodder:

This track combines two new loves of mine:

1) Adele's latest album, 21, which is packed to bursting with excellent songs (especially, "Rumour Has It" & "Set Fire to the Rain")—each featuring her almost genre-less soulful crooning, here reinvigorated by a light-yet-limb-rocking backbeat.

2) Childish Gambino, AKA Donald Glover of Derrick Comedy & Community fame. Flying in the face of many a celebrity-gone-musician before him, Glover is actually, well, pretty damn good. Other favorites of mine include "I Be On That" & "Freaks & Geeks"—both speedy & nerdy & pun-ridden, colliding like the best of lyrics. (A somewhat guilty favorite: e.e. cummin' on her face—now that's poetry in motion.)

&, just for fun:

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Rebecca Black Phenomenon.

If you, too, have been hopping around the internet in procrastinatory fervor these past weeks—or watching the news, or breathing—chances are you've heard of the one and only "Friday" by Rebecca Black.

This single video has managed over 60 million views on YouTube, not including its near-countless spoofs & memes, & was recently the #43 most downloaded song on iTunes (beating out the likes of the Black Eyed Peas & Britney's latest exploration in dirty puns)—all while being openly & relentlessly mocked as the worst song, ever, ever, ever. As such, it provides an excellent point of study for a phenomenon I've been internally expounding upon for a while now—that is, Liking Something Because It's Terrible.

Because this song is, in fact, terrible. I mean, really, patently bad. From its monotone melody to its barfed out lyrics—including up to 8 placeholder repetitions of the word "fun" & a bridge that denotatively & apathetically describes the order of the days of the week—it just might be, as millions before me have said, the one of the least artful pieces of pop debris ever produced.

Indeed, not only is the song so mindlessly constructed as to be laughable—as parodied brilliantly by two preteen boys (which, by the way, is when you know you're in trouble: when what you've done can be sent up by those with a comic sensibility that still giggles at the word "penis")—but in its middle-of-the-road, Please-Be-a-Hit banality, "Friday" almost becomes its own parody of the pandering lameness of conventional pop. Desire to be "partyin' partyin'" & "lookin' forward to the weekend" are perhaps the most universalizable sentiments for the ages of 12-65—short only of "gravity exists" & "eyelids are useful"—as exemplified by the nearly inhuman amount of songs that take on this "fun fun fun fun" as their subject matter. The same goes for that James Blunt song about how "I saw your face in a crowded place": it's just denotative enough to evoke a wildly general emotion, while retaining the requisite vagueness to be played at the climax of every romantic comedy ever made.

But enough about the song—because, honestly, I'm becoming an exemplar of my own point: as Foucault (yes, I'm a pretentious college student, shut your face) once wondered why it is that we repeatedly castigate ourselves for being sexually repressed, all while doing nothing to actually alleviate that repression, I'm fascinated by a news cycle/internet culture/innumerable fraternities hosting "Friday"-themed parties that would go far out of their way to declare, loudly, creatively, in time-consuming & proto-hortatory fashion, how terrible they think something is.

The first & most obvious reason is because it's funny. There's no denying that the video itself—as well as a select few of its parodies, & even some of its covers (though far fewer, I think, than those producing said covers would like to believe)—are simply & denotatively hilarious, for reasons upon reasons. Still, I can't help but feel like there's more to this phenomenon than a "laughing at" relationship—that, by focusing so steadily on this one piece of pop ephemera, even if only to mock it, we can't help but like it—or, at the very least, give it a trajectory identical to that of something beloved.

Because the paradox is, every time you buy "Friday" on iTunes, even if your intention is to laugh at its stupidity, you're giving money to Rebecca Black (or, more accurately, to the blameworthy hucksters at Ark Music Factory)—just as everyone who tunes in to mock the drunken exploits of the cast of Jersey Shore is contributing to the show's rising ratings, its season renewals, Snooki's ever-oranging skin. If that's your aim, then so be it—but, at least in my mind, when one doesn't approve of something, fiscally & ideologically perpetuating it is often not on one's to-do list. In short: a (shamefully) large part of me wants the world to shut up about Rebecca Black, & the Jersey Shore kids, & the Kardashians, & the Real Housewives, & the Girls Next Door, etcetera-ad-infinitum, simply because I—&, I would argue, all of the people talking about/parodying/ironically celebrating them—do not, in point of fact, consider any of these people actually worthy of this much attention. So, I say, let's stop giving it—& its corequisite paycheck—to them, please.

Of course, I'm no saint—not by the longest of shots. I, too, have spent many a side-splitting evening in front of NYC Prep, The A-List, Rock of Love; the above plea is as much to myself as anyone. Moreover, there's decent part of my brain—the part that, I imagine, speaks alternately in the voices of Kate Bush & the Church Lady—that wants this love-through-hate trend to cease for slightly less snobbish reasons: because it forces these poor people to be famous for being despised. I know, I know: "there's no such thing as bad press"—I want your love & I want your revenge—better to be ripped to shreds than go anonymous—I understand the logic behind it, but fame is pernicious enough when it springs from legitimate celebration, let alone mockery & awfulness.

Having just finished an article on the London premiere of an opera about Anna Nicole Smith (which I'll cross-post here once it's published, pinky swear), I've been thinking a lot about this ever-recurring Tragic Cycle of Fame—how we tend to build celebrities up only to tear them down, then golf-clap at their rehabilitation, then fiend for stories of their relapses, on & on until the individual in question either perishes (followed by uncannily tasteless post-mortem coverage), or gets shoved out of the spotlight by some new mess, doomed to live forevermore on the dregs of what was, what was. Think Mickey Rourke or Robert Downey Jr., both trainwrecks-turned-Oscar-nominees—then think about how even these laudably reformed gents aren't getting nearly as much coverage as that blathering whackadoodle Charlie Sheen. Same goes for Britney Spears, whose news mentions seem to flare up only when she's in crisis—as satirized à la "The Lottery" by those clever boys over at South Park.

Celebrating someone for being dreadful represents essentially the same process, only truncated for the ease of the user—more hateful bang for your tabloid buck—because even when these people are on the upswing, they're still fair game to be shat upon. The pinnacle of their success is so wrapped up in their ability to be loathsome that, at all times, every American who was promised citizenship in an up-by-personal-bootstraps meritocracy can exorcise some of their frustrated ambition by clawing at the dignity of those who've made it to the magazine covers. To be famous is to succeed, but if we can somehow prove that those who are famous are deficient—are addicted or stupid or frivolous, some kind of reprehensible—then we can comfort ourselves that, press mentions aside, we are still superior. As long as we can make them look worse, we haven't failed—&, in the case of those whose notoriety is predicated on their awfulness, looking worse takes very little effort.

The real irony of the situation, though, is that soliciting this kind of public disapproval has now become desirable in & of itself—when, for example, girls are getting pregnant specifically to eligible for casting on Teen Mom, MTV's latest exercise in irresponsible programming. Because fame-through-derision has proven so profitable (see: Snooki Polizzi's paycheck per club appearance), those who were once the whetting stones for our real celebrity envy have themselves joined the canon of the enviable. Liking something ironically can often feel safer than liking it genuinely—because, if challenged, you can always pull back & insult it, unscathed—but, taken to such extremes, this faux-endorsement seems to leave us free-falling in a frustrating, almost exponential spiral, which cheapens both what it means to "like" something & the quality of what's out there to be liked.

I realize that we got a little sidetracked—&, indeed, a little heavy-handed—so let me clarify: my point is not that everyone who like-mocked "Friday" is implicated in the downfall of Western Civilization—because the song is, in fact, ridiculous, & catchy like an airborne toxin. Still, in less innocuous instances, I think our far-too-prevalent love-to-hate relationship with pop culture gets icky, & that we should (in perhaps the most literal instance of this phrase I can muster) check our divas before we wreck our divas.

In the meantime, though, let's at least let this seemingly unstemmable tide swell in the triumphant voice of Stephen Colbert:

Today's Headphone Fodder:

Anneliese's "Fun Fun Fun Fun" Playlist.

Friday On My Mind—David Bowie (Easybeats cover).

Weekend—Smith Westerns.

Hot Patootie (Whatever Happened to Saturday Night?)—The Phenomenauts (Rocky Horror cover).

Saturday Night Divas—Spice Girls.

Seven Day Weekend—The New York Dolls.

Sunday Morning—The Velvet Underground.

I Don't Like Mondays—Bob Geldof & the Boomtown Rats.

Ruby Tuesday—Franco Battaio (Rolling Stones cover).

Wednesday Week—Elvis Costello & the Attractions.


Friday, I'm In Love—The Cure.

&, last but not least, for all those acid trips you were desperately hoping to forget:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Doodling With Science.

There are days on which school seems like, plainly put, the Worst: days when I have to tumble 10+ blocks through frigid wind for a morning Astronomy lecture, despite the fact that I have Zero enduring interest in Astronomy & moreover have been tossing & turning past sunrise the night before, over-anxious about some other academic banality. On days like these, I get predictably bitter, then guilty about being bitter, then bitter about being guilty about being bitter, & ultimately seriously consider what it would take to withdraw my tuition, put it in a series of gym bags, & hand them out to various developing countries.

Then, something like this happens:

In case you're wondering what this possibly could be—why, for example, I would get at all excited over a surprised stick figure made of hamburger meat channeling his inner BeeGee—I invite you to meet Carbon Monoxide Man. No, he's not the world's worst superhero ("What happened to them, officer?" "I don't— Aw, fuck, Carbon Monoxide Man was hiding behind the couch."), nor is he the slightly more noxious version of Chicago's Mr. Cellophane.

What he is, is molecular art.

I'm going to let that sink in for a second, then elaborate: these are carbon monoxide atoms, arranged on platinum into the shape of a man by the artist (their word, not mine) Zeppenfield, then photographed with a Scanning Tunneling Microscope.

Seriously: drawings, on a molecular level. I never thought I'd live to see the day.

Mark this, dear Reader: in 20 years, when you're sipping white wine at a swanky gallery on the Lower East Side, complaining about the clunkiness of your X-Treem Magnifying goggles, remember Carbon Monoxide Man.

Today's Headphone Fodder:

Like all somewhat morbid pre-teens, I went through the requisite Nightmare Before Christmas obsession phase—followed quickly by the requisite Poe obsession, then the "I'll wear this Hot Topic dress, but only to go to the Dresden Dolls concert" era (you know you've been there)—but, throughout all of this, I've never really liked "Sally's Song." I was always more of a "Jack's Lament" girl myself—"Jack's Obsession," too. "Poor Jack." Of course, any Elfman music is head & shoulders above most human deployments of sound, & Catherine O'Hara is basically  ideal, but regardless, I never quite came around to Sally or anything she might be singing—that is, until now.

What a fucking fantastic cover—a reinterpretation that manages to be both unpredictable (i.e., not the Marilyn Manson "This is Halloween") & still augment sentiment of the song, almost more so through reinterpretation—leaving to come back, flying by falling. Plus, fan or no, it's simply sonically lovely: the jolt cut-out of the background music in the final chorus makes my heart skip.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Tale of Two Divas.

To put this post in its proper context, I think it will help to relay an anecdote from my recent past: A few weeks ago, bogged down by weather & month & school & brain, I moped over to a friend's room, in search of Southern comfort. After a good few minutes of rant & rehash, he & I decided that the best cure for my woes would most certainly be a viewing of our favorite show, RuPaul's Drag Race—a reality competition that combines the hands-on construction of Project Runway with the self-presentation of America's Next Top Model, all seasoned with the delectably acidic sass that only a gaggle of drag queens could muster. In short, it's brilliant, & its third season is now well underway, so we clicked over to Logo Online—where, upon beholding the title of the latest episode, we began laughing, in earnest & profound joy, for a solid five minutes: it was called "Queens in Space."

One more time: Queens in Space.

Really now. There has never been, nor will there ever be, a description that encompasses everything I hold dear more apt than "Queens in Space." It's Bowie to Bolan & back againsilvery 80s sparseness with gaudy beehive dos—a decade-spanning, pulpish amalgamation of all that is good & true. (In fact, it has since entered our canon of personalized & snappy slang terms: a mantra to remind us that, when life gets you down, it's ok: there will always be Queens in Space.)

The point of this introductory digression is, of course, partially to inform you of the beauty that is my new catchphrase, but more so to highlight the rather ridiculous extent to which I love queer-bent pop culture. I know: it's the oldest (& most gratingly annoying) line in the book: a girl claiming to "actually just be a gay man, LOL"—but I can assure you that, from top to toe, when it comes to (majoritarian) taste in pop ephemera, I pretty well fit the bill. I swoon for anything Camp—brashness, glitter, big hair—that gloriously whisper-thin line between self-parody & sheer, unadulterated fabulousness—&, most importantly, divas.

I love a good diva.


Early last year, this love was both electrified—&, honestly, tested—when I attended the sheer explosion of capital-E-Excess that was the latest Kylie Minogue tour. Flanked by a sincere & fanatical squadron of greying V-neck chest hair—&, clung elbow-close, the friend who had convinced me to accompany him in the first place—I did my very best to bop & jive sincerely, fighting to keep my eyeballs from overflowing with Glitter & Feathers & 60-Foot Projections of Muscle-Hunks Showering—my ears from cracking under such a persistent & glorious Disco Beat-Down.

In short, the show was nothing short of Spectacle, catered cannily to its predominant audience—&, while it was certainly a night to remember, it did disorient me somewhat: I began to doubt, in earnest, my penchant for the Truly Fabulous. What kind of a diva-lover could I be, when I couldn't even make it through a night of Kylie without a desperate desire to sit down, cool off, & chug Nirvana until my pores seeped plaid testosterone? I mean, it's true: my railings against Gaga certainly certainly don't fit my contemporaries' typical pop paradigm—nor does my intense & equal (or, often, exceeding) love of Grungy Guitar Boys.

Of course, all hope is far from lost: living, as we do, in a postmodern world of ever-blending lines, there are plenty of outlets for my cross-genre adoration. Semi Precious Weapons, for example, are tops at combining a gender-bending aesthetic with driving garage rock:

Equally on-the-nose are Hunx & His Punx, whose (utterly excellent, previously posted) single calls out this very demographic, referencing Joey Ramone & John Waters in turn:

It was in this vein that I found myself thinking several Saturdays ago, when I was treated to another live Diva sighting: again in the company of an enthusiastic friend, I trucked along to a concert of longstanding Swedish pop icon Robyn, whose three-part album Body Talk has garnered recent worldwide success. The audience was, as predicted, predominantly flamboyant gentlemen—glitter-bedecked & skinny-jeaned, with the occasional be-bloused female compatriot, & her occasional sulky baseball hat boyfriend.

Though I had sincerely braced myself for another Eleganza Overload—dieting down to only one viewing of Guy Pearce's "I Don't Care If the Sun Don't Shine" per day for weeks beforehand, just in case—it was ultimately all for naught. The curtain opened on a sparse stage, just band & mic stand, & even the singer herself was refreshingly unadorned: patterned leggings, hiking boots, & a cropped blonde mop-top—stylish but functional, comfortable, performance-ready. As the concert surged on, my friend & I couldn't but squeal back & forth, "She's just so cute!"—& it's true: with her smaller stature, squeaky accent, & unabashed enthusiasm, she almost can't not come off as adorable. But more than that, Robyn's performance just feels earnest—gimmickless but never artless, uncomplicated without being braindead, only after what it's after: fun, feel-good pop.

In this fan interview, for example, she just seems so lovely & sincere, without any of the intentional stupefying or egoistic pretense that's come to dominate her peers. Just to drop a cherry on my already overflowing praise sundae, she actually opines: "For me, pop music & integrity never contradicted each other," citing acts like Kate Bush & the Talking Heads, then reasserting, ever-sage, "I don't think of what I do as art. I make pop music." (Ah! Yes! Swoon! I'm about ready to kiss her on the mouth.)

I walked away from that concert buzzing with reinvigoration & revelation: Robyn is the diva for us pseudo-glitterati, an act toned down in glitz & budget, perhaps, but never lacking in pizazz. There are no back-up dancers—there is no disco ball: what there is, is a supremely dedicated performer, quite literally running up multiple flights of stairs to reach her faraway audience, singing ceaselessly through a stumble over her platform Timberlands. Her lyrics may not be brain-knottingly eloquent, but they're more than sufficient—even admirable, when you consider that she's writing in her second language & still manages to outmaneuver most American Top 40 Pop. (I'm looking at you, Ms. Perry...)

In short & in sweet, Robyn has clearly made music that, quite simply, she would like to dance to—so dance she does, constantly, with sharp akimbo arms & tectoniqueish fluid jaunts. &, transported, I couldn't help but follow.

Today's Headphone Fodder:

Dancing On My Own—Robyn.

Heart-wrenching, limb-shaking—a perfectly poignant but never sentimentalized (&, indeed, crazy-catchy) personification of Unrequited Love.

This choice was a difficult one, of course, so I'll feature some runner-ups: un-un-danceable "Fembot"; bopping & jiving "Cry When You Get Older"; brain-invading, minor-keyed "Time Machine"; &, most (second) favorite of all, "None of Dem": Platonic disaffected acerbia, with a driving backbeat to boot.