Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Back to Braque

Someone's finally pinned down exactly how I feel about the Wine-o:

Winehouse’s worrying series of relapses and collapses could simply be a trick of the light. Actors and singers were misbehaving vigorously before the advent of radio; Winehouse may seem like such a dedicated tearaway because the lens recording her movements is wider than anything a sixties celebrity would have encountered, doesn’t switch off, and continually feeds a twenty-four-hour newsstand....

...Winehouse’s delivery, though—take a little time to suss that one out. It isn’t really straight minstrelsy, because her inflections and phonemes don’t add up to any known style. Listen to the mid-tempo shuffle “You Know I’m No Good” and hear how she elongates and deforms the word “worst.” Is she channelling a little-known blues singer? Is she hammered? This mush-mouthed approach is Winehouse’s real innovation—a mangling of language that will pull you in, especially when you want to hear the words.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Androgyny as spectacle

What to do with another faux industro-goth band with disturbing emo tendencies whose singer is a dead ringer for Gerard Way? Cringe? Theorize? In the case of Tokio Hotel, perhaps both. One of their videos seems to reference Fritz Lang's Metropolis, while another features comely girl-boy lead singer Bill Kaulitz being rescued from a suicide attempt by his only marginally butch-er second self. What's interesting is that Placebo made the same video ten years ago. The concepts are identical, right down to the Midnight Vixen nail laquer. Crowds point in slow-motion and gaze heavenward, a suicidal, roof-jumping girl-boy pouts angstfully from his perch and finally summons supernatural powers for a grand finale that draws a connecting line between gender blur and an ability to transcend the body completely. Apparently, the impulse to allegorize androgyny as public spectacle is still a strong one.

If you don't have much patience for industrial emo ballads, I recommend skipping the first two-thirds of the video and jumping in right at the big Lacanian payoff, in which Kaulitz faces down his mirror reflection, walks through it and then disappears. Kelefa Sanneh is right; this man needs a stage name. Something Teutonic, but still glossy. Dietmar, maybe? Helmut? "Bill" isn't doing it.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Honest to blog

Those "Ellen Page is secretly gay" rumors? Not likely to go away any time soon.