Posts tagged "music"

Thought I should get around to posting my Stylus Decade over here. If you haven’t seen it yet, do go over and check out the complete site, but for now, whet your appetite with my contributions.
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” as Henry David Thoreau put it, and that counts even if, in the words of The National’s Matt Berninger, “You’re young, you’re middle class/They say it doesn’t matter.” Boxer is a quiet, desperate album, one with solemn piano chords, Berninger’s creamy baritone, and dark apartment corners and dimly lit city streets. But, as Thoreau knows, “What is called resignation is confirmed desperation,” and The National’s mannered domestic drama veils — thinly — a throbbing heart thumping terribly and gushing blood through a body desperate to believe itself to be still alive. The popular fantasy of youth is the impassioned cris des coeur of On the Road and Born to Run, but its real face is revealed in this album’s miserable little byways. “Turn the light out, say good night, no thinking for a little while,” Berninger promises — or pleads — on the opener, “Fake Empire.” “Let’s not try to figure out everything at once”: This is a record not of restless adolescence but instead about what comes after. Boxer aches with loneliness; the subdued sadness of being “mistaken for strangers by your old friends/When you pass them at night beneath the silvery, silvery Citibank lights.” This record shares little with the abrasive origins of indie rock, and one could drily observe that in 2007, after the genre had lived through its Garden State/“The O.C.”-fueled explosion, its core audience had grown up a bit and grown weary of prickliness, and that maybe, growing older, they had begun to accumulate a preference for adult responsibility over adolescent impetuousness. It’s better, though, to take The National on its own terms. Allowing Boxer to transcend its stink of middle class privilege, its scenes of young go-getters “showered and blue-blazered,” permits the listener to penetrate the record’s emotional heart. And true, all the introspection could be dull were it not for the music’s determination to unearth these emotions. This is, after all, an album with a rhythm section as memorable as its melodies: propulsive drumming that thrums on like that small spark still flickering away inside every dull-eyed office drone. And if all that spark is saying is, “I want to hurry home to you, put on a slow dumb show for you, and crack you up,” then that brilliant dumb show of humanity is better than all the tramps born to run. Boxer is, in the end, as desperate as it is quiet, and a living dog is better than a dead lion.

Thought I should get around to posting my Stylus Decade over here. If you haven’t seen it yet, do go over and check out the complete site, but for now, whet your appetite with my contributions.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” as Henry David Thoreau put it, and that counts even if, in the words of The National’s Matt Berninger, “You’re young, you’re middle class/They say it doesn’t matter.” Boxer is a quiet, desperate album, one with solemn piano chords, Berninger’s creamy baritone, and dark apartment corners and dimly lit city streets. But, as Thoreau knows, “What is called resignation is confirmed desperation,” and The National’s mannered domestic drama veils — thinly — a throbbing heart thumping terribly and gushing blood through a body desperate to believe itself to be still alive. The popular fantasy of youth is the impassioned cris des coeur of On the Road and Born to Run, but its real face is revealed in this album’s miserable little byways. “Turn the light out, say good night, no thinking for a little while,” Berninger promises — or pleads — on the opener, “Fake Empire.” “Let’s not try to figure out everything at once”: This is a record not of restless adolescence but instead about what comes after. Boxer aches with loneliness; the subdued sadness of being “mistaken for strangers by your old friends/When you pass them at night beneath the silvery, silvery Citibank lights.”

This record shares little with the abrasive origins of indie rock, and one could drily observe that in 2007, after the genre had lived through its Garden State/“The O.C.”-fueled explosion, its core audience had grown up a bit and grown weary of prickliness, and that maybe, growing older, they had begun to accumulate a preference for adult responsibility over adolescent impetuousness. It’s better, though, to take The National on its own terms. Allowing Boxer to transcend its stink of middle class privilege, its scenes of young go-getters “showered and blue-blazered,” permits the listener to penetrate the record’s emotional heart.

And true, all the introspection could be dull were it not for the music’s determination to unearth these emotions. This is, after all, an album with a rhythm section as memorable as its melodies: propulsive drumming that thrums on like that small spark still flickering away inside every dull-eyed office drone. And if all that spark is saying is, “I want to hurry home to you, put on a slow dumb show for you, and crack you up,” then that brilliant dumb show of humanity is better than all the tramps born to run. Boxer is, in the end, as desperate as it is quiet, and a living dog is better than a dead lion.


In fact, I was hardly listening to anything this past year and a half, just because I had my headphones on so often, trying to write lyrics for this record. When I took the headphones off, the last thing I wanted to do was have other music in my head. I had been listening to these sketches for five hours a day, trying to think about them and write to them, so I missed an entire year of music in some ways. I listen to a song or two from people that I loved, just for inspiration here and there, but I don’t know if it actually worked. I think it just frustrated me. You know, when you hear something you love so much and you feel like you’re getting nowhere with a song, it often just makes it even harder to write to it.

-Matt Berninger (The National)

Att creative people: No. This is not right.

Creativity does not spring fully formed from the folds of one’s cranium. It relies on engaging with the world around oneself, and engaging with the artform within which one is working.

If your job is to be creative, it is also your job to be consuming other people’s creativity. You must be paying attention to the way other people are doing the things you are trying to do, studying how they respond to different challenges, and exploring how they use different sounds and ideas.

This, I believe, is why bands so often decline as their careers progress. When they are young and starting out, they are engaged in the music being made around them, and are gaining inspiration and ideas from it. As they progress through their careers and their tastes become more esoteric and insular, their font of inspiration dries up, and they begin relying only on their inner circle for new ideas.

Or, in other words: Your pop will eat itself.

2
Jan 29

The Weakerthans - Tournament of Hearts

The winter Olympics curling is on TV right now, so to celebrate, here’s the greatest indie rock song ever written that uses Canadian sports as a metaphor for existential angst.

The lyrics include curling references like “Dance down the sheet to the tune of ‘Hurry, Hurry Hard’” — a cheer used to encourage sweepers to clean the ice, as well as a curling themed condom brand — “Right off, no never ever” — a command to stop sweeping — and the entirety of the chorus, which speaks, at least superficially, to the lament of a player who’s unable to place his rocks correctly:

"Why, why can’t I draw right up to what I want to say?"
"Why can’t I ever stop where I want to stay?"
I slide right through the day
Always throwing hack weight

Then there’s the title itself, which refers to the romantically-named Canadian women’s curling tournament. But though the wordplay in the song is marvelously inventive, my favorite aspect of the song is the vivid evocations of small-town Canadian life, such as the keenly-described first verse:

Now the lounge is full of farmers
for the 7:30 draw
The teammates all left before they had to buy a round
When they pull the 50/50, and I’ve lost again I’ll go
Maybe have one more brown one for the snowy road
All the championship banners going yellow on the wall
And my name when it gets closer to last call

These days the people I love are spread so far apart.

Jawbreaker, “Ache”

24 Hour Revenge Therapy has been getting some play.

(Screw Rock ‘n’ Roll is in Seattle now, by the way.)


It really seemed at the time like “What’s My Age Again” was the song that quintessentially captured the Blink-182 mindset; the breakthrough into genuine mainstream popularity that was Enema of the State was shot through with a kind of young adulthood arrested development. “I never want to act my age,” as Mark Hoppus sung with near-bathetic near-poignancy in the song’s outro. “Why would you wish that on me?”
But holding “What’s My Age Again” as a mission statement for its creators is an unsatisfying interpretation, and focusing on that tune really seems to sidestep the genuine intent of this record. Instead, look to an oft-forgotten non-single toward the end of the album for a better indication of what’s really going on with this band on the album that, along with Green Day’s Dookie, is the commercial peak of ’90s pop-punk. (I suppose I should mention Smash as the third component of the triptych.) 
"Wendy Clear" is an unusual tune in the Blink-182 catalogue, partly because it’s opaque in a way this band is usually not, but moreso because, in its tone of voice and its outlook, it is decidedly adult. Though it’s as peppy as a TRL-approved pop-punk tune was required to be a decade ago, its lyrics are weary and inward-looking. "Let’s take your boat out on the bay, forgot your job for just one day," Hoppus proposes, sounding, for once, like a man in his late-twenties from suburban San Diego, one with a career, a private life, and frustrations that have nothing to do with a compulsion to juvenalia. The song is about a relationship that can’t be properly realized because of unspecified but apparently mundane circumstances (the back story regards an anonymous woman who works in the record industry): the sort of romance that doesn’t happen merely because it doesn’t happen. "Why do I want what I can’t get/I wish it didn’t have to be so bad."
I think “Wendy Clear” is so important in the context of this record because its plain maturity is so singular in contrast to the tunes surrounding it. Contrary to the arrested development theory, that is that these are all songs by grown men acting like adolescents, “Wendy Clear” is the only track that is really told from the perspective of a grown man at all. The rest of the songs inhabit comfortably adolescent or even pre-adolescent characters. It’s not arrested development, it’s just straightforward development. If you know what I mean.
See, that was pretty new for Blink-182. Prior to that, they had written songs in the voices of bratty West Coast punks in the early stages of deadbeat adulthood (“Carousel,” “Josie”)—sort of Green Day without Billie-Joe Armstrong’s keen descriptive powers—or bratty West Coast punks in the early stages of deadbeat adulthood acting like complete idiots (“Voyeur,” “Degenerate,” etc.). The consistent middle school voice of Enema was a shift for the band from the off-the-cuff goofing around of their early career into a more focused and more coherent outlook.
Last week I posted a quote from A.O. Scott’s New York Times review of The Hangover. Here it is again:

And the movie, for all its queasiness about male bodies and the thin line between friendship and, you know, other stuff, can’t be called homophobic either. It is much more panicked by the idea of heterosexuality, from whose terrors and traps the whole Vegas adventure is an escape. The city itself is not a place of sin but rather, for Stu, Phil and Alan, an Eden of the narcissistic, infantile id.
Alan, in spite of his heavy beard, is almost literally a giant baby, his soft-bellied body appearing swaddled in a sheet and, most memorably, in a jockstrap that looks like a badly applied diaper. Until the end credits — which shuffle through still photographs from a harder-edged, more nastily and candidly adult movie — the on-screen nudity consists of male buttocks and a woman’s breast in the mouth of a nursing infant. This pretty much sums up the movie’s psychosexual condition, which old-school Freudians might identify as pregenital, more preoccupied with eating and elimination than with, you know, other stuff.

And although, prima facie Blink-182 seem obsessed with the sexual, Enema shares The Hangover's panic about sexuality. Girls are all over this record—of course—but the band recoils from any hint of sexuality they may exhibit. “The Party Song” is about a girl with “Green eyes and long blonde hair, [who] wasn't wear underwear.” “She might be the one,” Hoppus thinks, but grows quickly disapproving: “Some girls try to hard/With the way that they dress and those things on their chest/And the things they suggest to me.” He shuns the sex-fantasy when it becomes real.This alone would not suggest such a fear of female sexuality. After all we learn of the girl in question that “her volume of make-up, her fake tits were tasteless”; one can appreciate sex and still disdain silicon and cosmetics. But following “The Party Song” is “Mutt,” which turns up its nose at a couple with a functioning sex life, and, strangely, suggests the male partner consequently has homosexual tendencies, with separate references to a seatless bicycle and tight pants. The titular “Dysentery Gary” is both a “player” and a “diarrhea giver.” And this softening of sexuality into scatology is evident elsewhere; look at the front cover, which puts porn star Janine Lindemulder in a revealing outfit and uses her to (snigger) make a joke about rectal invasion. “What’s My Age Again” begins with heavy petting and transitions quickly into suggestions another man is being sodomized. 
It isn’t as if the boys do not approve of male-female relationships. The record longs for them, so long as they remain chaste. “Please take me by the hand,” Tom DeLonge says in “Going Away to College.” “It’s so cold out tonight.” So convincingly earnest is he that his promise to “put blankets on the bed” and not “turn out the light,” in the following couplet sounds anything but risqué.
Let us not confuse things; “College” is a sweet song. “I haven’t been this scared in a long time/I’m so unprepared, so here’s your Valentine,” is abashedly boyish in all the right ways. “All the Small Things” has the slightest hints of an actual adult, sexual relationship (“I’ll be your thrill/The night will go on…”) but “carry me home,” sounds more like the kind of thing a mother may do for a small child than an orgasm euphemism. Regardless, the song’s true focus is on the girl “watching, waiting, commiserating” and leaving “roses by the stairs,” because “surprises let me know she cares.”
All this would seem pretty misogynistic, in a run-of-the-mill, fear-of-female-sexuality sort of way (particularly considering the opening track begs for “a girl that I can train”), except the (pre-)adolescent personae evident in these songs seems more in tune with a fear of, as with The Hangover, heterosexuality. This is an album where multiple songs refer to parents, both as mentors (“Dumpweed”), and authority figures both disconnected (“Aliens Exist”) and threatening (“Anthem”). And Enema seems to treat women and sexuality with the specifically confused stance of the young teenage boy.
See, one of the confusing things the male adolescent must encounter is a world speaking about him as if he were single-mindedly and quite dangerously obsessed with sex, at the expense of all else. These are the boys it is dangerous to leave around one’s daughters, because they have a ravenous and single-minded insistence on deflowering all who come before them. 
I’m sure there are boys like this. But for me, anyway, it was quite confusing to hear this when, at the same time, I cared about girls immensely, in a way that wasn’t driven by lust; the kind of affectionate feelings teenage girls are assumed only to possess and teenage boys assumed to disdain. Of course, when I and other boys grew up a bit, we found it quite easy to be reconcile our sexual and affectionate selves. But the adolescents of Enema cannot do this. Faced with a false choice between being perceived as nymphomaniac womanizers or caring partners, they reject sexuality in favor of flowers and valentines, while uncomfortably offsetting their libido by converting dick jokes into poop jokes.
I don’t know if Blink-182 were consciously doing this. They probably were not. But the stark division between affection and sexuality did not appear so strongly in its work until they created this album with its concertedly adolescent outlook, and the few moments its creators sung with their own voices, such as “Wendy Clear” suggest it was not a natural part of the personality of these men.

It really seemed at the time like “What’s My Age Again” was the song that quintessentially captured the Blink-182 mindset; the breakthrough into genuine mainstream popularity that was Enema of the State was shot through with a kind of young adulthood arrested development. “I never want to act my age,” as Mark Hoppus sung with near-bathetic near-poignancy in the song’s outro. “Why would you wish that on me?”

But holding “What’s My Age Again” as a mission statement for its creators is an unsatisfying interpretation, and focusing on that tune really seems to sidestep the genuine intent of this record. Instead, look to an oft-forgotten non-single toward the end of the album for a better indication of what’s really going on with this band on the album that, along with Green Day’s Dookie, is the commercial peak of ’90s pop-punk. (I suppose I should mention Smash as the third component of the triptych.) 

"Wendy Clear" is an unusual tune in the Blink-182 catalogue, partly because it’s opaque in a way this band is usually not, but moreso because, in its tone of voice and its outlook, it is decidedly adult. Though it’s as peppy as a TRL-approved pop-punk tune was required to be a decade ago, its lyrics are weary and inward-looking. "Let’s take your boat out on the bay, forgot your job for just one day," Hoppus proposes, sounding, for once, like a man in his late-twenties from suburban San Diego, one with a career, a private life, and frustrations that have nothing to do with a compulsion to juvenalia. The song is about a relationship that can’t be properly realized because of unspecified but apparently mundane circumstances (the back story regards an anonymous woman who works in the record industry): the sort of romance that doesn’t happen merely because it doesn’t happen. "Why do I want what I can’t get/I wish it didn’t have to be so bad."

I think “Wendy Clear” is so important in the context of this record because its plain maturity is so singular in contrast to the tunes surrounding it. Contrary to the arrested development theory, that is that these are all songs by grown men acting like adolescents, “Wendy Clear” is the only track that is really told from the perspective of a grown man at all. The rest of the songs inhabit comfortably adolescent or even pre-adolescent characters. It’s not arrested development, it’s just straightforward development. If you know what I mean.

See, that was pretty new for Blink-182. Prior to that, they had written songs in the voices of bratty West Coast punks in the early stages of deadbeat adulthood (“Carousel,” “Josie”)—sort of Green Day without Billie-Joe Armstrong’s keen descriptive powers—or bratty West Coast punks in the early stages of deadbeat adulthood acting like complete idiots (“Voyeur,” “Degenerate,” etc.). The consistent middle school voice of Enema was a shift for the band from the off-the-cuff goofing around of their early career into a more focused and more coherent outlook.

Last week I posted a quote from A.O. Scott’s New York Times review of The Hangover. Here it is again:

And the movie, for all its queasiness about male bodies and the thin line between friendship and, you know, other stuff, can’t be called homophobic either. It is much more panicked by the idea of heterosexuality, from whose terrors and traps the whole Vegas adventure is an escape. The city itself is not a place of sin but rather, for Stu, Phil and Alan, an Eden of the narcissistic, infantile id.

Alan, in spite of his heavy beard, is almost literally a giant baby, his soft-bellied body appearing swaddled in a sheet and, most memorably, in a jockstrap that looks like a badly applied diaper. Until the end credits — which shuffle through still photographs from a harder-edged, more nastily and candidly adult movie — the on-screen nudity consists of male buttocks and a woman’s breast in the mouth of a nursing infant. This pretty much sums up the movie’s psychosexual condition, which old-school Freudians might identify as pregenital, more preoccupied with eating and elimination than with, you know, other stuff.

And although, prima facie Blink-182 seem obsessed with the sexual, Enema shares The Hangover's panic about sexuality. Girls are all over this record—of course—but the band recoils from any hint of sexuality they may exhibit. “The Party Song” is about a girl with “Green eyes and long blonde hair, [who] wasn't wear underwear.” “She might be the one,” Hoppus thinks, but grows quickly disapproving: “Some girls try to hard/With the way that they dress and those things on their chest/And the things they suggest to me.” He shuns the sex-fantasy when it becomes real.
This alone would not suggest such a fear of female sexuality. After all we learn of the girl in question that “her volume of make-up, her fake tits were tasteless”; one can appreciate sex and still disdain silicon and cosmetics. But following “The Party Song” is “Mutt,” which turns up its nose at a couple with a functioning sex life, and, strangely, suggests the male partner consequently has homosexual tendencies, with separate references to a seatless bicycle and tight pants. The titular “Dysentery Gary” is both a “player” and a “diarrhea giver.” And this softening of sexuality into scatology is evident elsewhere; look at the front cover, which puts porn star Janine Lindemulder in a revealing outfit and uses her to (snigger) make a joke about rectal invasion. “What’s My Age Again” begins with heavy petting and transitions quickly into suggestions another man is being sodomized. 

It isn’t as if the boys do not approve of male-female relationships. The record longs for them, so long as they remain chaste. “Please take me by the hand,” Tom DeLonge says in “Going Away to College.” “It’s so cold out tonight.” So convincingly earnest is he that his promise to “put blankets on the bed” and not “turn out the light,” in the following couplet sounds anything but risqué.

Let us not confuse things; “College” is a sweet song. “I haven’t been this scared in a long time/I’m so unprepared, so here’s your Valentine,” is abashedly boyish in all the right ways. “All the Small Things” has the slightest hints of an actual adult, sexual relationship (“I’ll be your thrill/The night will go on…”) but “carry me home,” sounds more like the kind of thing a mother may do for a small child than an orgasm euphemism. Regardless, the song’s true focus is on the girl “watching, waiting, commiserating” and leaving “roses by the stairs,” because “surprises let me know she cares.”

All this would seem pretty misogynistic, in a run-of-the-mill, fear-of-female-sexuality sort of way (particularly considering the opening track begs for “a girl that I can train”), except the (pre-)adolescent personae evident in these songs seems more in tune with a fear of, as with The Hangover, heterosexuality. This is an album where multiple songs refer to parents, both as mentors (“Dumpweed”), and authority figures both disconnected (“Aliens Exist”) and threatening (“Anthem”). And Enema seems to treat women and sexuality with the specifically confused stance of the young teenage boy.

See, one of the confusing things the male adolescent must encounter is a world speaking about him as if he were single-mindedly and quite dangerously obsessed with sex, at the expense of all else. These are the boys it is dangerous to leave around one’s daughters, because they have a ravenous and single-minded insistence on deflowering all who come before them. 

I’m sure there are boys like this. But for me, anyway, it was quite confusing to hear this when, at the same time, I cared about girls immensely, in a way that wasn’t driven by lust; the kind of affectionate feelings teenage girls are assumed only to possess and teenage boys assumed to disdain. Of course, when I and other boys grew up a bit, we found it quite easy to be reconcile our sexual and affectionate selves. But the adolescents of Enema cannot do this. Faced with a false choice between being perceived as nymphomaniac womanizers or caring partners, they reject sexuality in favor of flowers and valentines, while uncomfortably offsetting their libido by converting dick jokes into poop jokes.

I don’t know if Blink-182 were consciously doing this. They probably were not. But the stark division between affection and sexuality did not appear so strongly in its work until they created this album with its concertedly adolescent outlook, and the few moments its creators sung with their own voices, such as “Wendy Clear” suggest it was not a natural part of the personality of these men.


their intersection on “Telephone” is less about any underlying similarity than the kind of disjunctive pop thrill that kids reading comics might get if Spider-Man fought Batman.

- aceterrier

tomewing

Thankyou - this is EXACTLY what it felt like, not a guest-star appearance, but a crossover!

Isn’t this a formula more common in hip-hop than pop? i.e., as ‘Ye put it: “[T]ake Freeway, throw him on tracks with Mos Def/Call him Kwa-li or Kwe-li, I put him on songs with Jay-Z.” Sure, rap has its guest-spots too, but it seems far more comfortable with the collaboration-as-crossover confluence we’re talking about here.

I suppose this particularly happens with rapper/producer combinations, speculating about which can keep rap nerds entertained for hours. What if Weezy made an album with all-Premo beats? How about a full-length Jay-Z/Timbaland LP? E-40 on top of… um… Mouse! Why not!?!?!

As a sidenote, could I hereby make public my long held desire for T.I., Jeezy and Ludacris to put together an ATL supergroup and make an album together? Think of the awesomeness of “On Top of the World,” “Bang,” “Wish You Would,” “Grew Up a Screw Up,” “I Got Money,” etc.


Sometimes there is no gulf wider than the one between the 12 and the 13 year old boy.

Tom Ewing.

Nice write-up of the insipid 1987 single “Star Trekkin’” from Mr. Blue Lines Revisited, but I’m particularly attracted by the extra-nice lede.

3
Mar 15

GPOYWhatever-While-Drunk-and-Singing-Miley-Cyrus
At the end of my internship in D.C., the other Australian interns and I went to the local bar and got white-boy-wasted. As you can see. And we sung karaoke. Including our Official Internship Theme Song, which was, appropriately, “Party in the U.S.A.”

GPOYWhatever-While-Drunk-and-Singing-Miley-Cyrus

At the end of my internship in D.C., the other Australian interns and I went to the local bar and got white-boy-wasted. As you can see. And we sung karaoke. Including our Official Internship Theme Song, which was, appropriately, “Party in the U.S.A.”


VideoGaGa: “Just Dance ft. Colby O’Donis”

"Just Dance," and hence Lady GaGa, was a hit in Australia long before GaGa began her long domination of her home country. [1] It’s for that reason that, apart from knowing that she didn’t wear pants a lot of the time, my primary exposure to GaGa for a very long portion of her career was through her music rather than through her cross-platform, multi-media brand construction. 

And even though I’ve caught up some in the interim, my perception of GaGa has been skewed by taking such a music-focused approach to a pop singer intent on making the accompanying images and ideas she produces so important to understanding her songs. And I am not one to decide that ignorance makes my position more pure, as if, in focusing on the music, my view were more uncluttered and authoritative.  No, the extraneous bullshit has a whole lot to do with the GaGa phenomenon, so I’ve decided to roll up my sleeves and get dirty. By which I mean I’m going to be examining her videos in chronological order, culminating in “Telephone,” which I am still yet to see. [3]

My first impression of “Just Dance” was that it must have been a new Rihanna single. This was around the time “Disturbia” was making the rounds, and GaGa owes a lot to Rihanna’s efforts to re-orient the US charts from R&B to gleaming electro. It’s indicative of what a shift GaGa was in pop music that I had such difficulty locating her in a proper cultural context; when I found out she was not Rihanna, I assumed she was part of an Akon invasion of Europe, an act deployed for an international market that was never expected to be successful in her home country, like the Scissor Sisters or Blondie. [4]

But I could live with that. “Just Dance” is fascinating because it is a club song focused so minutely on what it is like to be in a club, and particularly, what it is like to be completely fucked up in a club. Most club songs, particularly in rap/R&B, tend to speak about the club as an Eden of wine, women, and the sexual encounters such a combination will inevitably produce. I’ve never been in a club that produces anything close to a utopia from those elements.

"Just Dance" approximates the experience better: there are strangers everywhere, the music is loud, you’ve had way too much to drink, and the only way to really get through the experience is to just dance; surrender yourself to the music and the darkness and save sense for the daylight hours.

GaGa is actually having a pretty awful night; she can’t find her keys or her phone, she can’t see straight, somehow she’s turned her shirt inside out, and she’s forgotten which club she’s even in. “Just Dance” is a bit like the Streets’ “Blinded by the Lights,” except you can actually dance to it. “Blinded by the Lights” worked because it was a song that was made not to be played in clubs, but to capture what it was like to be in a club. “Just Dance” goes one better by also being a song that can be played in a club. 

The video, as GaGa videos go, is pretty tame. Apart from the scenes of her riding/grinding an inflatable killer whale in a kiddie pool, GaGa doesn’t do much more than pose in a disco-ball bra and show off her Aladdin Sane make up. For some reason the setting is a house party, not a club, as the lyrics propose, but this works too; the costumes are a little outlandish, but for the most part the house party here looks like an actual house party, more realistic than most parties portrayed in movies are. The lighting is bad, there’s a lot of empty space and the people dancing around can’t really fill the room with anything but exuberance. (Movies tend to try to make house parties look like clubs.) The focus of the video, like the song, is in describing an experience as it is, not as it is culturally assumed to be.

The thing about the song and the video “Just Dance,” I guess, is that it is GaGa in utero. As a pop star and an idea, she is not yet fully formed, though there are hints. She tells us that she wants to be seen as a contemporary female Bowie, even though she hasn’t really decided how she’ll do that. She has ideas about where her music is going (more on this later), but for the moment, she’s only created a curiously self-reflexive dance tune. “What’s going on on the floor? I love this record, baby…”

—- 

[1] Some guy on the Internet says the song made Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play listing during the northern summer of ‘08, but you basically only need to be played in a couple of L.A. bars a handful of times to make the top of that chart.

[2] But nor is my perspective incorrect either. 

[3] I thought “Telephone” was a fine track on the mostly excellent Fame Monster, though not as bracingly inventive as “Bad Romance,” “Monster,” or “So Happy I Could Die.”

[4] I also thought she wouldn’t last long for that reason; Akon, who with the now-forgotten Colby O’Donis guests on “Just Dance,” and he has a near non-existent track record of playing mentor. Fortunately, mentor was a role he did not play here.


Some music critics on Vampire Weekend.

  • Critic 1: I like the part when he sings about 96-point Futura.
  • Critic 2: If this is an actual true thing he sings about, I'm going to admit this band does better hater-taunting than any rapper ever alive.


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