Friday, May 21, 2010
Now, I'm not one to malign a musician for reusing somebody's original melody/beat/et cetera, but I cannot figure out why these guys felt it necessary to turn a couple snippets of DAMO SUZUKI's vocals into a five-minute rant about clingy wastoids (besides the fact that one part of the original vocals does sound like the words "drunk and hot girls"). Maybe West and Def did just hear a mondegreen in "Sing Swan Song" and thought it would make for some good comic relief on Graduation, but I think this kind of cross-genre sampling (especially from such a notoriously hip band as Can) serves a different purpose for "Drunk and Hot Girls."
Kanye West is the kind of hip-hop star who grabs the attention of all kinds of music fans, not just those who consider themselves true HIP-HOP HEADS. He collaborates with musicians from ADAM LEVINE to CHRIS MARTIN to TWISTA in order to make himself relevant to listeners of all types, but to please the music fan who may not like the big names next to the track titles he has to use samples that a) have not been used in any other noteworthy hip-hop songs and b) will grab the attention of the snobbier listener. Can seem like just the group to achieve both goals as they are not the kind of band to be played on mainstream radio and knowledge of their music nowadays provides the listener with a chunk of CULTURAL CAPITAL. The samples taken from "Sing Swan Song" are "good" precisely because they elevate (or are supposed to elevate) West's music from run-of-the-mill radio-rap to hip-hop that involves itself in a CROSS-CULTURAL DIALOGUE.
I have also noticed this picking and choosing of samples as being able to function in the opposite way. Swedish electronic musician AXEL WILLNER (no relation, pictured), better known as THE FIELD, uses a sample from LIONEL RITCHIE's "Hello" in his song "A Paw in My Face." Willner preempts accusations of musical pretentiousness when at song's end he let's the sample unfurl, revealing the source material in a kind of "gotcha" moment. Instead of trying to dress up his music with a more obscure sample, he affectionately takes one from an artist known for being a popular cheeseball.
Samples today, then, are more than the musical interpolations that they perhaps once were; musically they are very useful, but the mere presence of samples can change the entire meaning of a song, whether intentional or not. I can't help but think of Marshall Mcluhan's "The Medium is the Message" (which I haven't read in a while, so bear with me). The presence of a sample in a pop song is a medium that requires the conscious participation of the listener. This medium, no matter what its content may be, is schism and re-presentation of a previous pop song, therefore changing what the aims of what the new song may have originally been.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Niagara's tsar again
This one assumes that Niagara Falls, Ontario and Niagara Falls, New York share a supreme ruler, which they don't. It turns out that putting verbs into palindromic phrases is the hardest part.
In other tedious wordplay news, peep this compendium of paragraphs that only use words with common vowels (via my girlfriend): EUNOIA.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
While looking for more information about the song, I came across an MTV.com interview from September 2008 that speaks with my boy about his then-new single. When asked about it, Usher stated that "It's gonna be hot. The story is, like, wishful thinking for all men to have a woman who takes control and compliments us the way we compliment them...We wanted to do something very forward-thinking." Let us examine this statement in regards to the song's first verse:
I know what you're used to
We're gonna do something different tonight
Now we're gonna do this thing a little different tonight
You gonna come over and pick me up in your ride
You gonna knock, then you gonna wait
Ooh, you gonna take me on a dateYou're gonna open my door and I'ma reach over and open yours
The most shocking part of the song is the refrain in which Usher sings "I'm always on top, tonight I'm on the bottom." This may be presumptuous, but I never expected a cat like Usher, him being a major SEX-SYMBOL, to partake only in missionary coitus.
The music video for the song only furthers all of the above points as it features a lingerie-clad woman who is putty in Usher's hands. She pseudo-actively pursues him, but is only present to make him more desirable. The beginning of the video even sees Usher watching her as she swims around in a fish tank (pictured), serving as his pet who is available when he wants to see something pretty, but unable to escape the confines of her role. The two even reenact the famous scene from BLOW UP in which the photographer straddles his subjects, pinning her down and making her into an object. Guess who plays the photographer?
While I suppose one has to admire Usher's attempt to make a progressive hit R&B single, his execution leaves a lot to be desired. He reinforces just about every idea that the song seems aimed at combating. I can totally see why this single never even cracked into the Top 40 on the BILLBOARD HOT 100. All this being said, I still think "U Don't Have to Call" is a great song.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
I remember watching the "MANSARD ROOF" music video for the first time, seeing the band's name staggered in multi-colored futura font across a black background and thinking "Man, where do these guys come up with such simple, but effective (for lack of a better word) stuff?" Well, in the opening minutes of WEEK END I figured it out. The first time that the film's title is flashed across the screen (which happens quite frequently), it is in the EXACT SAME stark yellow, red and blue style (pictured). To make it even more similar, the film's title and the band's name share the same word; it actually took me until seeing the words in the same style to even make that connection.
This borrowed intertitle seems to be the only GODARD technique present in "MANSARD ROOF" as the rest of the video consists of many quick cuts and close-up shots of band members' faces, both of which are scarce in the film, WEEK END. One need only skip two VAMPIRE WEEKEND music videos ahead, though, to run right into another pretty clearly borrowed aesthetic. GODARD's film is full of long panning shots that are set in rural scenery, seem to last forever and incorporate many seemingly ridiculous elements (crashed, flaming cars, dead, blood-soaked human corpses, people dressed up in strange costumes) into the MISE EN SCENE and the main characters are a volatile couple who are worried, AD ABSURDUM, about their material belongings. "OXFORD COMMA" (pictured) incorporates these elements into the video as it is all one continuous take that follows one character, singer/guitarist, EZRA KOENIG, who seems fairly oblivious to the chaos around him. He walks along singing and playing guitar as people, some ignoring him, others not so much, make plans for an unknown task, film him, shoot each other and mimic him just as WEEK END's Roland and Corinne trek towards OINVILLE without paying much heed to those who they encounter.
The question that remains after noticing these similarities between WEEK END and VAMPIRE WEEKEND is simply: "Why?" Do these 21st century pop stars think they are entitled to these techniques just because their chosen moniker is similar to that of GODARD's film? Do they just have an affinity for the FRENCH NEW WAVE director and want to pay homage to him as best they can? Do they feel attached to this film's message in some way and want to incorporate it into their band's entire ethos?
In the case of "MANSARD ROOF" I think it is pretty safe to assume that the WEEK END-like beginning and ending titles are only used because of the similar wording, although the text does fit very well with the bands aesthetic as a whole. The "OXFORD COMMA" video, though, may just have more to with WEEK END than just a superficial reference. WEEK END, from what I took away from it, is a film that is intensely against corporations and commercialism. Throughout the entire movie, the characters drive everywhere in cars and navigate through traffic jams and exaggerated crashes that include maimed, bloody victims (pictured). Roland and Corinne repeatedly get excited about the automobiles they encounter and Roland frequently expresses interest in buying a new, nicer one. They do not seem to notice, however that the car crashes which they so often encounter are killing most of the other people in their movie. They both compulsively strive for better products without noticing the bad effects of them. In "OXFORD COMMA," KOENIG sounds like he is talking to a girl who is far too concerned about her own activities and social status. She travels ("take your passport"), listens to popular music (the Lil' Jon reference), and fibs about her class rank ("Why would you lie about how much coal you have?") while selfishly speaking badly to the person who is trying to help her. The character in the song, channeled only through KOENIG's transmission of her words, is just as oblivious to the peril that surrounds her. KOENIG himself cannot see any reason why someone would make such a false claim, but as he meanders through the set and asks about the girl's intentions in doing so, it is apparent that he really cannot understand why someone would create such a lie because he, clad in a nice, white suit and riding in a nice, white car, is very apparently part of the upper crust who would never need to lie about such issues as social status. He too seems deluded from the problem (in his case the CLASS SYSTEM) that surrounds him.
All throughout WEEK END, Roland and Corinne encounter people who repeatedly remind the main characters and the audience that everything happening is within the world of the film. When Roland attempts to hitch a ride after his car becomes immovable, a possible hitch poses him the question: "Are you in reality or in a film?" (paraphrased) and when he responds that he is part of the latter, the prospective driver cruises onward. This aspect of WEEK END pulls the viewer away from the absurd elements so he or she can set aside the absurdities, accept them as fictional and focus on what intention may lie behind the film's outlandish metaphors. The VAMPIRE WEEKEND music video in question performs a similar function when, very early in KOENIG's stroll, a film crew, separate from the one actually filming the video , pops up behind him and briefly follows him (pictured). In the context of "OXFORD COMMA," being reminded of the music video's fictional nature lets the viewer see that what appears in the frame is only one perspective, much like KOENIG's lyrics. This reminder that this video is, in fact, a fictional view can also serve much of the same purpose as it does in WEEK END, but in the interest of keeping this BLOG POST somewhat short (and it may be too late for that) I will not go into many of the other character interactions in "OXFORD COMMA."
So, what purpose does VAMPIRE WEEKEND's appropriation of GODARD's aesthetic serve? After seeing WEEK END I think I have a better grasp on how I am supposed to interpret their videos (at least in the case of "OXFORD COMMA," maybe "MANSARD ROOF." "A-PUNK" and "CCKK" are seemingly impertinent here). "OXFORD COMMA" now looks to me like a young man's walk through his immediate surroundings as he pays attention only to the events that seem to concern him, and the song's subject comes off in much of the same way now also. This connection between the musicians and the filmmaker also makes for one very exciting epiphany one can encounter while examining the former's work.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Now, I have for the past month or so been fulfilling requirements for South Carolina's ALCOHOL EDUCATION PROGRAM because of an UNDER-AGED DRINKING TICKET which I received last semester. The program requires clients to participate in COMMUNITY SERVICE at non-profit organizations and take a number of alcohol-related information sessions. One of these sessions was simply called an alcohol education class, which I attended for three Fridays with a couple other AEP clients. For the final class, the teacher, MR. BEN BOATWRIGHT (who actually is a decent, respectable fellow), said we were to create and present an "art project" (which encompassed any medium: painting, drawing, sculpting, spoken word, written word, et cetera) in which the students must explain what AEP means to him or her. I chose to write a manifesto, as it was the medium in which I could most-clearly articulate my views on the program, and my roommate and friend, ANDY (pictured), suggested I use it as a subject for a BLOG POST. I had already toyed with the idea myself and I have decided to do so as I thought about the essay for quite a while and treated the project much like I would a POST on my BLOG. So, the ensuing words come from my UNTITLED MANIFESTO that I created for the AEP PROGRAM.
My problem with the program starts with the evening on which I committed my “offense.” I had gone to a friend’s house out in Blythewood and was quietly spending time with friends and just happen to have been drinking beer. Nobody I was with was excessively loud or drunk and we were all having a pleasant, low-key time. The only reason that I think the police even showed up is because they were called to another house down the street that may have actually been disturbing the peace of the gated community. Whatever the reason, the police came in nine separate cars and searched the entire house. I willingly walked outside and stood with my friends, thinking that there was no possible way that these cocky dullards were going to write some nineteen tickets for those who happened to be under-aged. I was wrong, though, as we waited for about two hours while the law enforcers did their enforcing with smiles on their faces, the entire time trying to sound appealing to us as they lamented the beer which they made us pour into the sink. Any bad view that we were supposed to reserve for the liquid was immediately countered by the police officers’ assertions that they wanted to take it home and drink it themselves.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
The music from THE SENSUAL WORLD (the album physically returned to its place in the Chicago Public Library) went un-listened-to on my computer/iPod for a while, despite the recurring notion that I should be giving it another chance. In the past few weeks, though, I have experienced a surge of allusions and references to the work of KATE BUSH. In a relatively short span of time I purchased PETER GABRIEL's, SO, which features her in one song, heard her name mentioned in interviews with the bands HIGH PLACES, VIVIAN GIRLS and then again at my friends' house as I browsed through JOSH's music collection. The latter three of these instances involved the exact same song, "RUNNING UP THAT HILL," which I now know to be one of her biggest hits. After these encounters I gave this song a good listen, enjoyed it and decided that NOW is the time that I will actively pursue KATE BUSH's discography.
As I gave THE SENSUAL WORLD a couple more (figurative) spins, I finally started to be able to get into it. I think I was intially driven away by the many IDIOSYNCRASIES that make up the album, its tendency to sound somewhat DATED in its overall sound and the DENSITY that permeates every song. My recent multiple listenings and continually increasing enjoyment of THE SENSUAL WORLD are where now I stand in my first steps of KATE BUSH IMMERSION and APPRECIATION. Since listening to it, particularly the last song, "WALK STRAIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE," I have again seen her influence on the band PONYTAIL's singer MOLLY SIEGEL, especially in very beginning of their song "BEG WAVES." Both women make that noise that happens when you MAKE YOUR LIPS LIMP AND BLOW THROUGH YOUR MOUTH WHILE HUMMING IN A HIGH PITCH, a sound often more associated with small children than with pop vocalists.
The ICING on my PROVERBIAL KATE BUSH CAKE, though, appeared after the commencement of my IMMERSION and APPRECIATION. Last Thursday I got RA RA RIOT's new album, THE RHUMB LINE (pictured) from WUSC while doing a radio show. I listened to the this album a lot last weekend and had chosen a couple of initial standout tracks to frequently revisit, one of them being the ninth song, "SUSPENDED IN GAFFA." I listened to this song a few times before I researched their album and figured out that this particular selection is a KATE BUSH COVER.
No more than four days later, I was at work creating an ON THE GO PLAYLIST on the company iPod. There is a lone song by British post-punkers, THE FUTUREHEADS, that comes from their self-titled album that I frequently listened to when I was a junior in high school. The song is called "HOUNDS OF LOVE" and I put it on the playlist I was making to see if I would still enjoy it as I used to do. Continuing to scroll through the selections, I came across KATE BUSH's name and, because I had recently started my venture into her work, I threw that song, also entitled "HOUNDS OF LOVE," into the mix as well. Of course I noticed that these two songs have the same name, but I did not pen THE FUTUREHEADS as people who would cover KATE BUSH. I was quickly proved wrong, though, as not longer after hearing THE FUTUREHEADS' singer request for his shoes to be taken off and thrown into the lake, KATE BUSH did exactly the same.
Here I realized that I was SO CLOSE to accessing her music YEARS before I actually did, if only I had checked for writing credits upon hearing the song the first time! I am trying to decide if an AFFINITY for KATE BUSH has always been in the cards for me, if I have been experiencing more encounters with her recently than can be considered normal, or if she is simply a HUGE, INTERNATIONAL POP STAR and it is common to hear her name mentioned. If the latter is the case, then maybe one or a couple mentions got her on my brain, so I have just been taking more notice when her name arises. I'M NOT REALLY SURE, but I am glad I have finally started to take note of and experience KATE BUSH's (so far) unique, gratifying music.