It’s that time of year when I put my curator hat back on and try and give you the benefit of my experience (and very subjective opinion) to make sure you get the most out of your visit to the Venice Biennale.
The Venice Art Biennale is one of few fixed events in my calendar that I make sure I never miss.
Every time I go to Venice it takes my breath away. I don’t know whether that’s because of the extortionate prices they charge for practically anything, because the city’s just so fucking beautiful or because these days I only go there for the Biennale and I find myself lost in my thoughts when I’m there.
Factor in the bonus of some artporn and a few spritzes and the Art Biennale usually makes for a perfect weekend away for an art nerd like myself.
For me the anticipation often starts a few months’ earlier than the actual visit. If I haven’t already begun sleuthing of my own accord I usually start getting excited about it all when I receive a couple of texts to translate for promotional purposes or for the gallery wall panels.
This year’s May You Live In Interesting Times- the fifth consecutive Biennale I’ve attended- had all the same build up of Biennales past but the actual reality of the visit marked something of a change for me.
Usually after each visit I really struggle to whittle down the national pavilions to a concise best of the best. I have to go through my notes and reflect a lot in order to get my head around what I saw and what spoke the most to the curator and the artist in me. (You may or may not know that I was a curator and gallerist once upon a time).
I inevitably end up feeling like I’m short changing a few artists because so many had something exceptional to offer.
Worse still, I normally spend so much time being enthralled at a national level that the central, combined exhibitions feel like an obligation that I have to get through, carefully managing what little time I have left to search out the gems and filter out the distractions and all the noise.
This year was almost a complete reversal for me. I found myself struggling to enjoy many of the national presentations and instead more enthralled by what was on show in the collective exhibits which under Ralph Rugoff’s curation felt unified, cohesive and engaging where in the past they were often a rambling, time consuming mess.
I won’t go into Giardini and Arsenale just yet- they’ll get separate posts as per the tradition of this blog.
But I will say this: if you’re planning on heading to the Biennale this year you’ll do well to manage your level of expectation, especially if you’ve visited Biennales in the past.
This year there’s very little that’s playful or fun and humour is in very short supply. This year is a serious Biennale and worse still, very few artists who had a national showcase to play with managed to really hit the mark.
So you’ll have to be patient and pace yourself until the highlights present themselves (and sometimes re-present themselves) and make the long, expensive vaporetto ride seem worthwhile. And of course get a leg up with my tips and suggestions.
Last year a friend of mine had to sit me down and explain what ASMR was.
Knowing the kind of bubble I live in between work and writing, he was worried I was losing my touch.
I'm the first to admit I'm unable to keep up with what makes Millennials tick.
I didn't even know ASMR existed let alone that it was making noisy (and not so noisy) people rich. Mashable have an introductory video into the phenomenon in case you're not yet across it.
I ended the conversation with my friend incredulous and certain of only two things;
(i) my various career paths have all been poorly chosen
(ii) I need to keep up with the most savvy generation earth has seen.
To that effort, I was proud when I discovered yet another Gen Y staple: reactions.
Now there are a lot of Reactions on youtube (I guess they're made by Reactors...or are they just influencers? God help me.)
In case you don't know what they are, they're basically filmed reactions to videos or moments. It goes well beyond those viral hits of people's OTT reactions to scenes from Game of Thrones that had everyone feeling things a couple of years back. Reactions have become more sophisticated and exhaustive since their Viral beginnings.
Nowadays there's a growing number of (mostly) Millennials who film their commentaries on daily pop culture, but also those who trawl back through the 80s and 90s to "discover" and "react" to classic content.
They have channels and followers, and often Stans (=major fans) make suggestions of videos or albums they should watch/listen to and then react to.
There's a fair bit of disingenuity going on in a lot of reaction videos; people pretending to watch something for the first time or reacting in a way that suggests they're doing it for the comments (or the likes or the follows).
But just like anything else on the web, for every uninformed, implausible video there's an equally honest and fascinating take on Gen X culture.
2019 is proving a huge year for looking back after all this year marks the 30th anniversary of some of the pop world's touchstones.
To my mind, Madonna's Like A Prayer was 1989's most important pop artifact.
It may've been snubbed by the Grammys, but the press today is unanimous; Like A Prayer is a masterpiece, a game changer and currently the focus of a lot of praise.
I could bang on about how for years Like A Prayer was my favourite Madonna album but we live in a Millennial world, and it's increasingly up to them to decide what from our past was significant and important.
To that end, I've rounded up some of the most insightful and entertaining reactions to Like A Prayer's main videos after the jump.
I hate to tip my hat to Taylor Swift, but she really was onto something.
1989 really was a watershed year for pop music.
As the months roll on this year, you'll find that your social media feeds will be brimming with 30 year anniversary posts.
Some key albums from 1989 have had a lasting impact worldwide; others proved transformative in their local markets.
There was something about 1989 that pushed a lot of eighties acts to lift their game; to do something to justify your attention into the next decade. So many eighties pop acts seemed to come of age that year.
In Australia, as in some other countries in the colonial world, we were still coming out of a bit of a rock music haze. We certainly had lapped up the work of the international superstars, but we were a bit late to the pop party locally.
For better or worse, genres other than rock really only started to gain traction in the mid eighties in Oz. You were more likely to find yourself down the pub watching a bunch of frizzy haired guys in acid wash making their air guitar dreams come true than you were to be having a little shuffle in the middle of a heaving dancefloor back then.
There were certainly some great Aussie pop acts that emerged in the eighties (mostly for a flash) in Australia, but for the most part we had to wait until the end of the decade for female artists to be given the space to break the rock (chick) mould.
Before then it was unheard of for a record company and the media to really get behind a local lady and really give their work the kind of attention usually reserved for the blokes.
If you have even an ounce of Australian in you, then you know that Kate Ceberano is a national treasure; a versatile singer who effottlessly jumped across jazz, pop and funk as she paved out an unorthodox career that now spans three decades.
In 1989, she released her first proper pop debut; Brave, and for a year she and her Ministry of Fun were everywhere. She achieved great commercial sucess with her solo debut.
But more importantly Kate really ushered in a new era for Australian music.
Sad that it has come to this, but gosh, they still have it, don't they?
Of course, some more Rosario would've been great, but who am I to complain with their brilliant chemistry and the writing that made Will and Grace so great for so long? It was like eight seasons crystallized into ten minutes with a lot of venting and great gags.
Meanwhile, did you watch the debate?
I did this morning, having gone to bed with that uneasy feeling about what the box of kittens would bring with it.
Watching it was like watching something on the Discovery channel. Where the big, bulky species was constantly being pushed back into its cage by the smaller but smarter opponent.
That said, is it just me, or do you increasingly get the feeling that Trump's boiling anger acts like some kind of catharsis for the wider population? Like he says everything people from anywhere have wanted to say to a politician - especially one like Hillary - but never get the chance to because they don't want to sound like a rambling lunatic, or because reason, intellect [and facts] stops them?
Watching him stab his words out is like listening to half a country getting everything off its chest in a group therapy session, amplified as it is through all that fake tan and that comb over.
The commentators and media have already decided it was a win to Hillary, but the response from, well, I don't know, a third of the world [hello China, Russia, Iran, Japan, North Korea and Saudi Arabia and congratulations on your special mentions] is going to be just as fun [and disturbing] to watch. If that debate doesn't justifiably make their blood boil in the process. Please America, make it end.
A heart felt congratulations to J. Lo.
Jenny from the block has been doing the rounds recently - car pool karaoke [loved the music video jazz hands], Vegas residencies [getting pretty good reviews], and appearing in every second Pit Bull video there is around, you know, working it J.Lo style [kind of like a cross between 90s Janet Jackson, late 90s Mariah Carey with a dash of Martika's street smarts thrown in for good measure].
There was a time when I used to see her that my brain would automatically say "don't be fooled by the rocks that I've got" and I would remember that she was Jenny from the block and always on the 6.
But every time I see her now I just want to yelp "on the floor!" or hum the Lambada chorus.
But she's back with a new song and video for Ain't Your Mama or something like that so we can remember that she's still the real girl "from the Bronx!". And now we can all go around yelling "I ain't your mama!"
And with the video, I have to congratulate her, cos she's achieved that AND gone through a music video rite of passage!
Yes! Pit Bull may have had her on the floor, but this time around she's on checkered tiles and bended knee. Yep, she's scrubbing away, and doing her bit to erase those awful, cliched 40s/50s views of women's roles. In that Mad Men kind of way. Until she gets to the 80s and gets all Working Girl on us, and then, well, she's pop back into modern times again too. Magical!
And with that important rite of passage behind her like a Bar Mitzvah, J. Lo has earned her place in the top tier of music video activism! She joins the ranks of the Queens. Queen B and the Queen of Pop [and about a million others]. And for that we should all be thankful.
NELLY Furtado popped back into the digital world with a simple post on Facebook the other day. She didn't have the preceding Radiohead drama of destroying everything to get our attention. I mean, deleting everything on Twitter and social networks is the new trashing a hotel room. Every rock star and their bitch is going to be doing it.
But Nelly F, one of my favourite Canadians, is too classy for that stuff. She simply said Hi.
And she had me at hello. Well, you know what I mean.
I love that girl. She's pop's underrated golden girl. But she's not happy with the current landscape for musos. So, on the eve of her new album (and lets hope it's not another Spirit Indestructible) she's channeled Prince, and backed Nikki Sixx and Blondie in calling for Youtube to cough up the moolah. More here.
The MET Gala happened again, and proved that it is the new MTV music video awards. It's the show where everything is put out on the line.
Beyonce was apparently the night's queen, Madge bared her butt cheeks Prince style and won equal acclaim and scorn. Solange and Katy Perry copped it in the memes (look for the Solange/bowl of crisps meme!) but the real winner of the night was @JohnDrops. Remarkable!
His garbage liner takes on the celebrity fashion clearly outdid the celebrities. I'm not on Instagram so I knicked this image from the Daily Mail, but go find the Brazilian and give him all your love.
BONO must be fuming!
In operation Vatican-Play-Nice, those Vatican hoes played host to the first ever rock musician to perform in the Sistine Chapel.
Remember how back in the 1990s everyone heaved a sigh of relief because The Edge sang Numb and it was just so refreshing to hear a U2 song without Bono's vocals for the most part? Well The Edge got the edge over Ireland and Africa's new Patron Saint. You see, it was The Edge who performed the numbers in the chapel, not Bono.
Pope Francis wasn't even there, but at the end of the day, you know that PF is going to take all the credit for the historic rock music moment, and that not even Bono will be able to say anything about it. More here.
M.I.A has been busy making epic music videos, finishing her new album and running amok as usual.
But there's a lot of lazy journalism going on right now, and the stories doing the rounds about M.I.A are purely being culled from her twitter feed. In them she's noted how she's about to deliver her new album to her label, how it's going to be her last, and how because she doesn't have a visa for the US she's not going to be able to be Stateside to promote it.
Let the girl in!
Back to the media angle. The same story has reappeared in basically the same format since Consequence of Sound first posted it, in all of its tweety gory. I guess that's useful if you're not on Twitter, or if you feel like getting all Radiohead about it.
But let's face it, you don't need a degree to be a journalist today. You just need to be able to cut and paste someone's stream of consciousness (or unconsciousness if you're Gwyneth Paltrow, and can I just say how much I hate that video I'm forced to watch of her promoting some luxury brand before I watch Judge Judy and the People's Court on youtube. I'm gonna end up in court if I watch it again because it just makes me want to get violent).
Anyhow, at least Consequence of Sound added the amazing Border video to their M.I.A article.
The Pet Shop Boys.
One of the greatest inventions of the 1980s.
Their imperial period was amazing- characterised as it was by so many classic songs.
They have of course been around forever. It's thirty years since they topped the UK chart with their debut West End Girls and although their influence and popularity has been a series of peaks and valleys over the years, in their own subtle way, they have turned out to be one of the era's greatest acts to have ever emerged.
Their new album - Super - is imminent and its lead single - The Pop Kids is already out and getting club play. But I read an article the other day on The Guardian about how millennials don't go clubbing anymore. So, well that makes things awkward doesn't it? I mean, if no one is going out clubbing anymore then how are people supposed to hear new club music?
The mind boggles.
The new PSB song is a throwback to the early nineties- musically and lyrically- which is not strange considering the grip The Pet Shop Boys had over EDM at the time. It was the Pet Shop Boys more than any other act that seemed to hover between outright club music and mainstream pop. They were like a bridge between the two, certainly in Europe at least.
Is The Pop Kids the PSB's greatest single? No. But it is a sign of what the current record market means for legacy acts like them. They now release their music on their own label and are clearly resigned to the fact that radio likely won't play them. That gives them the freedom then to pursue the kind of sound they want to and in this case its about the throwback.
Stuart Price is at the helm of Super and it's the second in what is being envisioned as a trilogy of albums by the group. Price as you know was everywhere at one point - the go to guy who even lent his wares to Gwen Stefani and who you should hold accountable for Confessions On A Dance Floor.
I remember going to a couple of Price's DJ'ing gigs - one in particular in Melbourne just on the eve of Confessions On A Dance Floor and he was a lot of fun. A DJ with a great ear and a super sense of humour.
But we're all about the PSB right now, not Price. So, thankfully, there's a pretty remarkable interview with Chris Lowe - you know the quiet, baggy jacket and sunglasses wearing member of the duo - over on Quietus which is a good read, especially as Lowe reflects on the current music scene as seen through experienced eyes.
And just for added fun, there's a fun page in which a series of notorious rumours about the duo are addressed. Good fun and an excuse to reflect on those whispers from the eighties and nineties. That's here.
Meanwhile, check out the lyric video for The Pop Kids below.
IF there is one place where being uninformed, reactionary and plain outright stupid exists it's on the Facebook pages of nationalist groups.
Every country has them and they often serve up unintentional comedy gold.
Italy's nationalist political group, the Lega Nord are a bunch of whack pots.
They're the group who are usually behind the "close the borders, out with foreigners" mantra and the same people who have given life to the "divide Italy into two countries: a prosperous one in the north, and a disgusting impoverished one in the south" idea. What they usually leave out of those chants is that if the country is divided they'll still want to take their holidays in the south during the summer as they do now.
There are memes everywhere about their leader whose name I won't even mention as he's the Voldermort of Italian politics and doesn't deserve any extra attention.
The image here in this post was posted onto a Lega Nord facebook page. I'm going to give you a rough translation:
"Do you see this man? His name is Aziz El''Sayad. He raped 4 women in Cologne and 2 in Italy. Now he's a people smuggler and the state gives him 40 euro a day. Are you satisfied? I'm not. Share this if you want him deported."
Unless you live under a rock you know what's going on with this picture.
All you need is to be within a 5km radius of a teenager to know that we're talking about an international pop star and not an alleged immigrant rapist. But even if you're not, how difficult is it to do a google search and get informed? All you have to do is type in impossibly cute guy or use your brain to think about things for a minute.
But then that's kind of the point isn't it? Outrage won't wait and when something is simply handed to you - like this erroneous information - your lightning fast reflexes tell you to share it or like it rather than think about it first.
The fact that there are comments on those pages inciting violence and revenge, of REAL OUTRAGE in connection with this criminal proves a point as does the fact that the hoax has been revealed and people are still outraged and taking their anger out on "Aziz".
What's so worrying is that seemingly normal people are also sharing it on their own pages without even a second thought outside of the context of the ultra right wing web pages.
I'm sure the masterminds behind the experiment are both celebrating and scratching their head as to the extent to which some parts of the Italian public have fallen for their prank.
Poor Zayn. And you thought being pretty was easy!
CAN I just say that I find it really interesting how the press (and in particular the music press) has jumped on the story about how AC/DC's front man, Brian Johnson, is likely to be replaced by Axl Rose for the remainder of their tour.
The members of AC/DC have a median age of 64. Despite the changes in their lineup, the band have remained a respected and surprisingly powerful force in music - especially on a commercial level.
What's interesting is that although their members are largely anonymous to non fans, the press treats them with respect. There's no overpowering commentary about how they should retire and bow out gracefully, or of how they are no longer relevant, nor is there the constant assault on their credibility and the contribution that they make at this age.
All the fuss about Axl Rose joining the crew for the remaining ten dates of their tour is celebratory, and yet, Rose and Guns N' Roses I would say have made no fresh contribution to the world of music in over twenty years.
It's respect based on legacy and a far cry from what pop artists, and in particular, female pop artists have to put up with. Look at the last calendar year for Janet Jackson and Madonna and find me even one article that doesn't relate to their age and to how they shouldn't retire and bow out gracefully etc.
So, bottom line is, and I'm gonna be really generous here. If you're a rocker, and in particular, a male rocker, there is still no glass ceiling. No pensioner's bingo game that the press want you to go and play. But if you're in the pop world, and a woman in particular, it's another story entirely.
Is it just me, or does it suck to be Kanye West these days?
There was a time when Kanye was the go to guy in music. He was just the bees' knees. Making the most amazing music, writing killer songs for everyone and just, well, being cool. Untouchable, a meteor.
Somewhere, perhaps around Welcome to Heartbreak (still my fave West album), the wheels started to fall off the machine. The platitudes arrived and he started believing all the press. And it was around then that his meteor started its descent. It's already crashed down with a few serious thuds in recent years and has led to Kanye becoming pop culture's enfant terrible (sorry Biebs, you're #2).
Let me just say that I think Kanye is incredibly talented. He's one of the few people on the scene capable of shaking things up. Also, no artist can ever really sustain an up and up: as a public, we're wired to bring people down (repeatedly), and the notion that we can watch as someone gets pulled down from a lofty height is like the equivalent of cultural S&M porn.
Kanye West is a polarising figure. Reading his interviews over the years, listening to his music and keeping an eye on his aesthetic has led me to believe that he has really developed as an artist over the years. His ambition alone has pushed him to the level that he sees himself as being on: that is, one of the only acts of his generation that is really a successor to the MJ/Prince/Madonna holy trinity. The amount of hype and debate he creates gives him an automatic pass into that stratosphere on those grounds alone.
But I get the feeling that a lot of the time the commotion Kanye causes is involuntary or unplanned. It's chaos created by negative reactions rather than the chaos that greatness and true originality can generate. Back in the eighties, those three kept us on our toes. They just kept pushing the boundaries. You may not have liked them, but their new take on things often still blew your mind. But Kanye seems to always be on the verge of blowing his gasket, whereas those three - obvious eccentricities and defects aside - seemed to have a steely will to keep at it without getting caught up in the hype they created.
I think a portion of the latest round of negativity attached to Kanye these days is in connection to TIDAL. It's music royalty's modern day curse. They should've named that company TSUNAMI because it has really created incredible upheaval and terrible consequences for a lot of the artists on the roster/board. In the space of a week they managed to f*ck up both of their presumably most important releases of 2016 - Rihanna's Anti (which they temporarily/briefly leaked after endless delays) and Kanye's The Life of Pablo (which, well, has just been another mess what with West pulling its release after it having gone live).
Do music lovers still want to hear Kanye's music? Well, yes, but they increasingly don't want to listen to him. And when it comes to the music, it's also on their terms, not his. The decision to exclusively put Pablo on TIDAL has pissed off a lot of people who resent having to pay and subscribe in order to hear it. But, that's not to say there isn't a hunger for it: reports suggest that in the space of a week the album has already been illegally downloaded 500,000 times.
What's more interesting to me is the backlash that Kanye, on a human level, seems to be provoking. It's at a height that we haven't seen in a long time. You can't turn on social media this week without seeing a million memes pointing out how much of a douche bag he is perceived to be. And that's a sentiment that has plagued him for years: brought on by his appalling, pratty behaviour at award shows, ridiculous beefs with people like Taylor Swift or Beck, the ongoing car crash that is the West/Kardashian/Amber Rose/Wiz Khalifa saga and the kind of emperor has no clothes fashion lines he just insists on offering to the world. Add in a never ending set of Twitter rants and you have the basis of what is comedy gold. Here you have one of the biggest stars in the world with one of the biggest platforms ever, and nobody that wants to listen to a word he wants to say (unless it's to pull up closer to get a better view of a car crash).
As a result of all that deafening cacophony, whatever music he is making is being sidelined by him and himself alone. Ignore the media martyrdom that he seems to think he's being put through. Critics as always, love his work, even if any punch he has been able to deliver musically in recent years - be it with Yeezus or My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is completely overshadowed by Being Kanye West. And for that, he doesn't have anyone else to blame, because The Life of Pablo should've been a shoe in for an easy, well received reincarnation. But being Kanye West means that you're more interested in living in purgatory than becoming the Pop God you think you really are.
You know what? I gotta hand it to this generation's pop acts. It's bloody tough being in pop these days. Don't believe me?
Consider the kind of stories doing the rounds these days.
Protest against Beyonce's Super Bowl performance planned for NYC.
Anonymous protesters accuse Beyonce of race baiting. Of course they're anonymous and don't want to reveal their identities to people. Rather than consider the symbolism of Beyonce's performance as a way of moving forward, the (non) event is all about perpetuating the race baiting that they are accusing the pop singer of. Whatever.
Rihanna tops Billboard chart amidst allegations that Anti is a flop, sold 1000 copies.
Is it just me, or is the media reception to Anti another example of how anyone connected with Tidal is going to be forever punished in the media? Granted, Tidal doesn't seem to be doing itself any favours along the way. At least the Guardian article bothers to look at the issue from a couple of different angles as it signposts how the music industry is changing.
Madonna's latest wardrobe malfunction should swear her off marriage forever.
Perhaps marriage just isn't M's thing. It's like anything connected to marriage gives M trouble. Of course the big M news in the media of late has been the whole Rocco saga. If you cast your minds back a couple of weeks, it was Madonna that was being accused of being a bad parent. Now it's Guy Ritchie's turn.
Nicki Minaj and the generation gap.
Wasn't the fuss about Only over and done with about a year ago? All the Fascist iconography that came with the lyric video got everybody in a tizz. But you know, parents are always the last to know, and when they do catch up, it's always a ripe for a vine kind of moment.
Think those are tough? Try being Kanye West.
And having a platform that you constantly misuse or opinions that do nothing but divide and detract from your musical talent. His onstage and on Twitter rants are the kind of thing that not even NATO would be capable of quelling.
In my mind, the most disturbing music news doing the rounds relates to Will Young battling porn, alcohol addiction.
Will Young's admissions are heartbreaking.
We like to gloss over the effect that being marginalized creates. That being categorized or labelled in a certain way is actually a healthy thing, when the vast majority of messages and attitudes run completely contrary. I really feel for Will Young, and I really applaud the fact that he stood in front of a young audience and bared his soul as he did.
It's not easy being different and being reminded that you're different, that you're somehow not an equal because the particulars of your life don't reflect the perceived majority, the perceived norm.
I never got the whole One Direction thing, nor do I get the Five Seconds of Summer thing either.
I mean, of course I get it - I grew up alongside the modern boy band phenom. New Kids On The Block, Take That... Dire Straits...
The thing is, The Boy Band has always been a really important part of what makes the music industry tick. The idea that four or five (five seems to be the best number) kids from the projects with questionable musical pedigrees but pretty faces can help keep tweens and teenage girls happy, bring their parents to the verge of a financial crisis and keep not only record labels in business but also, and more importantly, the merchandise and memorabilia sectors alive... it's a powerful thing.
Of course I got the whole One Direction thing. On that level. But there were only ever two things that ever made me pay attention to them. The first was that photo circulating where Harry has a splitting resemblance to Rizzo in Grease. The second of course was Zayn. What a cutie.
So Zayn took a leaf out of the Geri Halliwell playbook and went solo. He bode is time and has finally surfaced with the song that is currently spilling out of every pop loving teen's bedroom - Pillow Talk.
It's not a bad solo debut by any standards. It's soulful in a kind of Craig David way, and it has crashed into the top of the charts around the world this week and outcharted pretty much every One Direction single in the process in most markets.
When Geri left the Spice Girls and made the world stop for a few minutes while we all contemplated the consequences, she eventually resurfaced with something that was a little camp, a little sophisticated and a little unexpected when she dropped Look At Me.
Zayn though, has simply gone the sexy route. The buck naked route. But, not him. Oh no, no, no.
It's insight into how the music industry works. When you're a boy bander, whipping off your top with the strength of numbers is the done thing. But when you're a solo male artist, when it comes to videos, it's all about getting the girls to strip if you want to express your own sexy side. And that's where the crux of the matter is. If you're a solo female artist, you're gonna have to show some skin if you want to get your video out there.
I lost count of how many gals got their kit off in the video for Pillow Talk. I'm sure there are hundreds of thousands of girls watching that video who are probably channeling their anger at each and everyone of those models in the clip right now. Hell, they've probably dipped some of their old Barbies in oil and are treating them like voodoo dolls. The indignation of getting naked with their boy!
But from an adult's perspective it's kind of sad that Bouha Kazmi's video treatment has gone in this direction. Don't get me wrong, it's moody, it's effective and it matches the tone of the song even if Zayn seems to be keeping things a bit restrained. But I can't help but feeling like it's objectification of each of the ladies at every level while Zayn's images are bit more Flemish painting meets modern Noir in the boudoir. I find it kind of awkward in a way.
There's one blink and you'll miss it scene where two of the girls are naked but for some boxing gloves. They're all oiled up and battling it out, and I really feel for one of the girls, because it looks as if as she goes in for the punch, the twenty five inch stilettos she's wearing slip on the sound stage and she has to correct herself.
But that's what happens in paradise and a war zone. At the end of the day we have what could be shaping up to be one of the year's first big hits, and already over 60 million viewings on Youtube to prove me wrong. Or right. Because isn't a video of it's nature just another reminder to young girls that you've gotta be sexy, desirable and prepared to act like a bit of set dressing? Help me out here.
I miss the nineties riot grrrls!
In the space of 72 hours, Queen B has reconquered the lands.
But she's no Khaleesi you guys. She's no queen of nothing.
Two years ago her hush hush album/video package took the world by storm. She didn't need any trumpeting, any fan fare, or a militia to bring everybody to attention. By the time she quietly popped it into the Itunes store and made herself a cuppa, it was already world news and a must have.
This is a viral age. Cultural offerings spread faster than you can say Ebola or Zika these days.
And few people know how to keep a lid on what they're doing until the very last moment like Queen Bey does. (I'm looking at you Madge.)
On her last major outing, Queen B tried to take on her past.
Her beauty queen past. Or as an amazingly talented friend of mine once said - her pageant pop past.
Problem is, there's usually not that much novelty or grit on offer when a good girl goes bad when the drama is all based on being upset about being, you know, beautiful, talented, rich, successful and wanting to do something artsy and, serious to make up for it. To do it well, you need to add something else into the mix. And the best, most proven way to do this is to bring sex into the mix. That blueprint has proven almost fool proof (I'm looking at you again Madge).
So, some of the best moments that came out of Beyonce were when that pageant hair really got messed up, QB got down and started riding surfborts and messing up Warhols with Jay Z.
Drunk In Love in my books was the best artifact that from that period, along with the Martha Graeme inspired Mine which, not coincidentally, didn't make anywhere near the same kind of impact as DIL despite it being a Drake collab.
Beyonce was a leap by her standards. An attempt to lend some artistry to a career that was already going great guns, but that was all highlights and foils. In a way it was a reinvention of sorts: the perfection of her past and the first step towards trying to bring the worlds of credibility and commerce together again.
If you've any doubt that Queen B is on a mission, we need look no further into the past than this last weekend, in which the duality of her current state of mind as reigning pop queen have been put back on show for everyone to see.
On Saturday, and out of the blue, Beyonce dropped the video for Formation. A dark, angry and empowering anti anthem- anti in the sense that it's not so much a sing a long as it as a war call. She came to slay, bitches.
What she has delivered is a kind of Beyonce-ised, blistering take on the outrage that is palpable in America: on being a woman, on being black, on being marginalised in an already fractured, wounded society. She has essentially dived into a pool that is swirling with tensions powered by the Black Lives Matter movement and the growing sense of frustration that is ever more palpable.
She has copped some flak for allegedly appropriating documentary imagery (the official line is that the footage wasn't owned by the film makers, and had been licensed for use by a third party which did own the rights) but beyond the rally call, she has also gotten people all hot and bothered again because of references to being, um, jammed hard and taking her man to Red Lobster as a thank you.
References like the Red Lobster and the sassy take on Hot Sauce work on the same level as what made Drunk In Love so powerful. That is the idea of America's good girl not just getting nasty, but real nasty.
But what makes Formation so interesting is that its get down and get nasty element isn't it's be all and end all like it was in Drunk In Love. It works better than any of QB's other forays into pop activism because it's more layered than anything else she has done before. She has essentially thrown down the gauntlet to those who don't see her as being layered and complex enough to have an opinion about what's going on around her, and what she's being subjected to. And that's an idea that took almost a decade to enter into her work, that she really only began fighting for with her fifth studio album.
The other surprising aspect to this past weekend is that, in performing at the Superbowl, she took Formation to the masses.
Usually, the Superbowl half time show is all about safety, familiarity and a showbiz excess. It had all that in the names it attracted - Bruno Mars and B have delivered it some of its highest ever ratings in the past - and the ensemble additions of Lady Gaga and Coldplay meant that every conceivable base was being covered. But rather than go in with a hits mentality, she brought her new, just dropped conversation starter to the stadiums and to television screens the world over. In doing that, she guaranteed that we'd be talking about her new song, the fact that she's finally building on her previous work rather than chasing the easy hits, and, oh, yes, conveniently announcing to the world that she's going back on the road.
All in the lightning time span of six albums and three minutes.
That is called bringing it home.
WE are almost at the second anniversary of the airing of Never Tear Us Apart, the Australian telemovie/dramatisation of the story behind INXS.
In addition to documenting the trials and tribulations of what was perhaps Australia's biggest commercial music act of all time, the drama remains a testament to just how powerful television remains as a taste maker.
Back in February 2014, the Seven network in Australia created hysteria in airing a two part series which was created with the input of the band and the band's longtime manager Chris Murphy. It's no coincidence how prominently Chris Murphy features in the program.
It was a light, made for TV special which beyond charting the band's rise documented how Michael Hutchence's charisma was so powerful that it eclipsed interest in all the other band members. As a fan of the band even I found it hard to keep track of the other characters. Hutchence was INXS and the telemovie didn't seem to dispel the notion. But in hindsight, the 2 parter has proven to be an incredible vehicle for the rediscovery of INXS as a musical band.
It's true that for almost fifteen years, from the end of the 70s to the early 90s, when they reached their commercial peak, INXS' star was one in ascendency. Their star burnt its brightest with the phenomenal success of 1987's Kick which sold over ten million copies.
Now, there are certain things that define success in Australia. At the heart of them is the uneasy sentiment that the Australian media conveys when a monster gets too big. It's what feeds the Tall Poppy Syndrome which is a huge part of the Aussie mentality. You see, Australia, unlike the US demands that even its most successful people display humility and a sense of community at all times. Basically, if you reach the stratosphere of success in Australia, the mathematics demand that the media will try to cut you down a peg or two, in order to remind you of where you stand in the community.
The teleseries milks that idea: it was perhaps part of the reason why the band eventually fell out of flavour with the local media. But I would say that it wasn't really the reason why the band eventually fell out of standing with Australian audiences.
INXS maintained their musical influence for years before their commercial downturn. But that downturn coincided with the splintering of popular music in the early 1990s. By then there was no prevailing sound that dominated the charts. You were just as likely to have a number one with a pop record as you were with a rap, rock or country song.
And for a band that repeatedly perfected rather than experimented with its sound, there wasn't a lot of novelty on offer almost twenty years on.
Theirs was a sound that was never really reinvented until it became a clear, and perhaps slightly desperate attempt on their parts to reconnect with mainstream audiences long after it was clear that the magic of their formula had started to fade.
I finally got around to watching the series last night here, and I enjoyed it, for one because a friend of mine was in it, playing a journalist (hi Maria!) and she got the chance to be part of a crack about Adam Ant which I know would've made her day.
The choice to use original INXS recordings throughout was genius as was the idea, if overused, of using actual crowd footage from some of INXS' most energetic gigs. Their early 90s Wembley gig is electrifying to watch. If you ever want to know where all the Aussies are in London, just check and see if there's a touring Aussie band in town.
But, well, overall it's your typical, made for Australian television fare even if there is a nostalgic air to it for the most part.
It's interesting to note that for the better part of the nineties, INXS rarely managed to make a dent in the music charts, both before and after Michael's death. Album after album after X (1990) struggled, as did their singles. The malaise had set in by then, despite their incredible back catalogue and achievements.
But since the airing of the tele-series, their greatest hits album, The Very Best has remained firmly lodged in the Australian album charts. It has barely left the charts after rocketing back to #1 on the back of the series being televised.
And for a band whose creative output since the passing of Michael has gone unnoticed (a reality TV show to find a replacement for Hutchence and a revolving door of replacement singers never got them back into the hearts of audiences - and is strategically ignored in the series), consistent sales of the greatest hits album has led to it being certified 5x platinum.
Those platinum awards, and the ongoing resurgence of their music is more testament to the power of television than anything else.
Who knew that the old faithful idiot box could still be king in the internet age and that nostalgia continues to trumps innovation?
M.I.A made what was probably 2015's most powerful music video with Borders.
It was powerful, sleek and one of the most humanist moments of her career to date.
It's no coincidence that it has been listed as one of 2015's finest videos - no one else hits as hard for the international community. And no one else is as out there and willing to court the ire as much as she is, which makes anything she does a natural target for criticism.
In the video for Borders, which you can see below if you haven't already, M.I.A forces us to look at borders and boundaries from a human perspective. It's populated by a choreographed mass of male refugees who disperse and reform to great effect - the naval arrangement is mind blowing - and powered along by M.I.A's amazing graphic touch. She was after all, a visual artist before she became a genre hopping music act.
But M.I.A's graphic touch is what often gets her into trouble - and it's the case here. In the past her mimicry of symbols, slogans and icons have done a lot to help her take her place as one of the current era's most switched on and tuned in artists.
But in Borders, she briefly dons a pirated football jersey - the Paris Saint-Germain jersey - adapted as only M.I.A knows how.
The video, which has been flowing around for months has outraged the football club. They're convinced that M.I.A's appropriation of the jersey is somehow linking them to the inhumane aspects of the refugee crisis that the world hasn't ever seen the likes of.
In a rambling kind of cease and desist letter, they note that as a football team they do so much for the community, that they are confused about how they can be seen to be responsible for the crisis and a whole lot of other blah blah blah - it's all about me - nonsense.
It seems that M.I.A's track record with the football industry in general looks to keep continuing on its trajectory.
Now that she's outraged the NFL and now the European leagues, what else can we look forward to? As an Australian I hope she can pull of something to get those smug AFL and Rugby leagues to come down off their perch a bit. Then she could probably make it global with a bit more uproar in Asia and South America.
Seriously. Does nobody understand irony anymore? Do overpaid legal teams have nothing else left to do?
It's M.I.A actually wearing the top that has got people all hot and bothered.
I get that we're moving into seriously paranoid waters but can we just get over it? Can we actually celebrate an artist without threatening her with a law suit? Seeing that jersey made me chuckle when I saw it. But clearly I'm an idiot because I should've interpreted it as likening the PSG squad to human barbarians. And how its inclusion in a clip that the mainstream shamefully have been ignoring has the potential to strip and crumble that poor little organisation, sending it into the ground and burying its... oh I can't even be bothered.
Watch it here before all the paralegals at Youtube start panicking and start stripping its presence from the web. They may well do that, but they certainly can't strip it of its eloquence.
Dave Di Vito
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Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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