Thursday, July 2, 2009

You Can't Stop The Music

I secretly love electronic music. I mean, not that trendy stuff. I'm talking about shitty house music, old Chemical Brothers, and the kind of remixed top-40 that gets played at the end of the night at really pedestrian "clubs." I went out with a little girl squad recently, and in between 8-dollar drinks and filthy tables, there was a delightful blend of really terrible, amazing music.

The most probable reason that people would like this type of music is because they've been ingesting MDMA and vodka-Redbulls all night long. Since Redbull gives me dry heaves and I'm not a pill-popper, my fondness for dance music remains a mystery, even to myself. One clue might rest on the fact that it's all designed to have sex to, in other words. On the other hand, if you call a genre "dance music" and then expect me not to love it, you'll be terrifically surprised.

The first time I really heard anything that could be classified as "electronic music" was when I was in the sixth grade, when I was way too young to be listening to Dig Your Own Hole. No matter! I'd listen to it on my Walkman, lying in bed at night, trying to figure out why the hell I was feeling jumpy and wide awake. Anyone who denies that music has powers
should be forced to repeatedly listen to what Dave Barry dubbed the worst song ever written, "MacArthur Park" by Richard Harris. We can set it up Clockwork Orange-style, and the resulting Slurpee-ization of the doubter's brain will be more than enough to create a new comic book supervillain.

My most recent electroresurgence was prompted by "What Else Is There?" the gorgeous 2005 Royskopp song, which features (total babe) Karin Dreijer Andersson. KDA then led me to find The Knife and Fever Ray, acts that both feature her spooky vocals. I'm not going to lie: I can't name-drop dance music acts like her (equally babe-onic brother) Olof Andersson, who DJs around Europe and who I would totally make out with. But I got a tiny primer in high school from friends, and can at least recognize most of the major musical waves out there.

For example, what happens when you mix indie music with dance music? Why, Chromeo, of course! One tasty recipe calls for copious amounts of irony, like when folky hipsters cover chart-toppers (see "Straight Outta Compton" as performed by Nina Gordon; Weezer's version of "(Hit Me Baby) One More Time," etc.). Also delicious is the parody, as evidenced by Lonely Island or Flight of the Concords and their goofy-ass take on thugged-out hip-hop.

Hip, funny, serious, deathly, sexy...none of those mean much if I can't dance. Because the most important thing about dance music isn't if it's, like, performing CPR on its audience. Will it make me shake my ass? Will I sing along? Will I get an endorphin high from three hours of sustained joy? Then, and only then, has dance music done its job.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dude Energy

If science ever gets bored with playing with atoms or screwing over the environment, they can always turn to harnessing one of the more potent sources of energy in the universe. I'm talking, of course, about Dude Energy.

As we leave behind our teens and enter the world of adulthood (and its corresponding adult magazines), we also leave behind a time when smacking each other in the bag was like, a huge source of entertainment and pleasure for guys. I'm not even mentioning that whaling on each other for no good reason made up roughly 40% of teen-boy social life. Plus, when else are you going to get really, really good at the Halo franchise without putting a marriage/career on the line? Or be powered solely by Mountain Dew and "that's what she said" jokes? It's glorious, glorious I tell you.

Women don't do that. Girls didn't do that either. We don't usually go around growing funny mustaches or debating which episode of The Simpsons was the very finest. Oh, sure, sometimes there are exceptions - remember when Cameron Diaz was first on the scene, and every interview she did was how much she liked burping/farting? - but for the most part, girls are delicate flowers when it comes to stuff like that. Which is a shame, really. I think we'd have a lot more fun if it occurred to us just to slug it out when we get mad at each other. Instead , we use all that fakery, peaking in high school, but lingering through a huge part of female-on-female social interactions.

Dudes have an easy physicality, a way of takin' 'er easy that's hard not to admire. It's this kind of mindset that allows a dude to play Frisbee on a Thursday afternoon, or have the mental capacity to store 800,000 songs in his brain, but forget his best friend's birthday. It's the easy jokester, the guy who can hit on a woman while sporting a ripped tee-shirt, the dude who can wear that same ripped tee-shirt four days in a row. Dudes are champs at cooking meat and terrible at making the bed. What's not to admire about that?

Monday, June 29, 2009

King of Pop Rocks

As 95% of the world has facebook-status-updated, twittered or read about at this point, Michael Jackson is dead. Lynn Crosbie, naturally, is feeling pretty blue.

I've previously called out Leah McLaren, another Globe columnist, for being a boring narcissist, but I've never had any actual contact with her. Lynn and I, on the other hand, have had an email spat. It involved the proper definition of the wifebeater tank top and culminated in her accusing me of being "old." Since she's, oh, twenty years older than me, it naturally got my back up.

In any case, I take umbrage with Crosbie because her favorite game is comparing Hollywood celebrities to Greek tragedies, which is a metaphor that was old when Elizabeth Taylor made Cleopatra - coincidentally, a product also created in 1963, much like Lynn. It just seems so trite, and obvious, and annoying. She also has a major hate-on for OJ Simpson, which makes her whole MJ thing so bizarre.

See, in Lynn's final words to Wacko Jacko, she mentioned his childhood, his tragic relationship with fame, his crazy adult life, and his metaphorical relationship with fame, especially his marriage with Lisa Marie Presley. You know? King of Rock 'n' Roll, King of Pop? Yeah. Throw a little King of The World in there, and you've got the whole she-bang. But nowhere in her flouncy little piece does she mention the fact that Michael Jackson turned from a black child into...well, certainly not a black man. Lynn's piece never mentions race.

There are "reasons" for Jackson's metamorphosis, including lupus and pancake makeup. However, there are also "reasons" like plastic surgery and skin bleaching. It's possible that the biggest reason might the fact that Jackson was a person who straight-up loathed himself. The Jackson Five released their first single when Michael was only nine years old, and Jackson admitted to Oprah in 1993 that he suffered beatings and humilations at the hands of his father from a young age. It's not a total shock that the man turned out to be freaky. As Britney proved, young fame can equal the crazy. As thousands of destroyed adults can attest, childhood abuse ain't no stroll in the greenery.

Now, keep that equation of monstrous childhood fame + insane childhood trauma in your mind as you cast yourself back to the 1970s and 1980s. There was no Obama back then. There was a film genre called blaxploitation, for christ's sake. Jackson, being a child star, was practically castrato. On the other hand, Jackson, being a black man, was "supposed" to be sexually potent. On the third hand, Jackson was an alleged anorexic, falling into a category of folks who aren't known for their self-acceptance. On the fourth hand, he has been accused of being gay (not to mention having an affinity for young boys) for the past 15 years. (On the fifth hand, I've turned into a mutation and need to stop this handsy business.) Michael Jackson was a man who just did not turn out well - mentally, physically, or emotionally.

Lynn Crosbie chooses to open her memorial by quoting Shelley's poem "Adonais," which seems a bit cruel. She follows up that stunner by moving on to the great poets of the 20th century. Any guesses? Air Supply. Yup, Crosbie can't live if living is without Michael Jackson. What is that? Look: I was never an MJ fan, since I was a ten year old girl when he started running into trouble with ten year old boys. His cultural relevance peaked the year I was born, so my memories of Jackson aren't of a musical and dance genius, but of a man who was dodging rumors and pulling publicity stunts.

However, Crosbie would have been 20 in 1983, and would have been a part of the massive take-over Jackson enacted on pop music. She would have been around for both the black and white versions of Jackson, and should have been able to toss off an analysis of his racial imbroglio without a second thought. In fact, given her writing about OJ Simpson, she should have zeroed in on that. And...she failed. Her memorial, with the Air Supply and the Adonais, with the Elvis comparisons and the Blanche Dubois shout-outs, was superficial.

Lynn: Michael Jackson was a tragedy. Not a Greek tragedy; a modern mess that is embedded in our time's obsession with race, fame, childhood, sexuality and the bizarre. Michael Jackson - the true MJ, who was successful and powerful, who fed an adoring audience amazing, world-changing music - died years ago. We've been watching his ghost for years.