New Moon = Women’s Fantasy

undying and undead love in action
undying and undead love, in action

I am a bit too proud to “let it go” when critics pan something I like. So I have to justify, through thought and theory, why something is good. And perhaps I should just let sleeping vampires lie… but I enjoyed almost every minute of New Moon, a movie most critics said was inferior to its predecessor.

So first I must start earlier in the franchise. This past weekend I re-watched Twilight, and was re-creeped out by Edward being such a fucking stalker.

Twilight‘s version of love is deeply melodramatic and unfeminist; but it speaks to cliches that are apparently still quite deeply embedded in little girls. Ed is exactly the kind of guy young women should avoid; he confesses he’s extremely protective of Bella; he watches her while she sleeps without permission; he stares at her unnervingly in public; his moods are unpredictable; he lies to her all the time; he even threatens to fang her. She laps it up. Yet it’s still easy to see why this portrait of clandestine love is appealing. Ed’s single-minded obsession is really hot; who wouldn’t want to be the fixation of a deliciously sexy Victorian goth boy? It also speaks to the narcissism of some types of love; we want to be craved, to be the focus of somebody else’s life. It’s also narcissistic because that consuming sort of love allows us to hide in that love and shut out the universe, thus becoming an excuse for all sorts of selfishness on the lovers’ behalves. The point is, the first movie is pretty fucked up. A better argument than I could ever make regarding this topic is featured in this hilarious youtube mash-up of Buffy and Edward.

Many critics regaled the first Twilight movie for being an ode to teenage love; but for real? Twilight offers mystical magnetism as the only explanation for Bella’s and Edward’s love. B & E apparently have nothing in common, and the only time they are shown to have what looks like a normal conversation occurs during a montage sequence with no sound but the music track. What the two lovers say during pedestrian conversation remains a riddle wrapped inside of a question mark! The only thing those two have in common is that they’d both like to die for each other. Not so realistic, methinks. (Mehopes!)

New Moon, despite featuring further proliferation of the supernatural, portrays the most realistic version of “teenage love.” And it doesn’t take place between Edward and Bella, but between Bella and Jacob the Wolfman. Jacob is such a muscled sweetie-pie, literally an All-American hunk o’ love; maybe our first Native American heartthrob? (Sadly, the actor isn’t really Native American, though he claims to be part Potowatami and Ottowa through his Michigander’s mom side.) Jacob and Bella pursue a common hobby (motorcycles), they take scenic drives, see movies called Facepunch, hang out with friends, etc, and do pretty normal stuff. Their attraction is grounded, it makes sense, and it is no less hot just because it is more realistic. (How could it not be hot? Those MUSCLES! Here is a slideshow of them. [Thanks, Rach])

Next critique: New Moon is long and boring, they say. Well, sure, it’s long, but is it drawn-out? That depends on your perspective. The awkward pauses, long glances and hesitant touches between Bella and her two loves make for luxuriously drawn-out courtship rituals. My sister and I squealed with delight every time it looked like something might happen between the romantic leads.

Which leads me to my next point (bear with me). This movie is fundamentally feminine in perspective and an escape from the drudgery of daily life, like a harlequin romance would be. And that’s why everyone thinks it’s stupid. New Moon really takes female desire seriously; Bella is at the center and the plot turns on her being the fixation of two really hot dudes (one of whom is shirtless in almost every scene). Bella isn’t as good looking as her two love interests; she’s an everygirl. She has brown hair, not blond, thank you very much, and she wears frumpy-ass poofy coats to school. She is the blank page on whom we project ourselves. And you know? This movie’s pace is feminine, as opposed to masculine. Fantasy movies for guys are full of car chases, then some sex scenes, probably some gadget scenes, more sex scenes, battles, etc. This fantasy movie is not so much full of events as it is the possibility of events: again, the luxurious pauses, etc. Desire simmers slightly below boiling for most of the movie, and what we’re left is the possibility of the gratification of desire.

We women just love that. I’d rather use my imagination than see a fantasy created for me on screen; New Moon is all about possibilities, and that’s why I can’t wait to watch it again.

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Gucci Mane: An Introduction

My head hurts from all this jail
My head hurts from all this jail

Gucci Mane: love him or never heard of him? If you are white, tis likely you’ve never heard of him. Gucci Mane (oft pronounced Gucci Man) is, of course, really hot on “the streets,” which means that Power 92 plays him a lot. That blog about stuff white people like once pointed out that white people enjoy black music that black people no longer care about. Anyway, Gucci is cared about now, so this is the chance to catch up on everything you (you, if you’re a white person) have missed while listening to 90s Wu Tang on repeat.

Gucci’s sure got an ugly mug, and sometimes he acts even uglier, but his laid back, husky and somewhat blubbery flow has its fans… one of them is even me. At his best, Gucci exhibits a breezy, self possessed confidence. Unlike his former ATL associate/current big beef Young Jeezy, he doesn’t sound like he’s hoarsely coughing nonsense at you. (Remember that crucial moment in history, right before Obama was elected? Jeezy had this to say about it: MY PRESIDENT IS BLACK/MY LAMBO’S BLUE/I’LL BE GOD DAMNED IF MY RIMS AIN’T TOO.) Gucci seems like a good-natured fellow, and his raps sound as natural as if he were merely breathing them. He’s lyrical, clever, and, according to imeem’s bio on him, liked writing poetry when he was little. It shows.

Let’s be real though. Gucci Mane is thug life 2009. There are youtube videos of him punching a woman, he also shot someone in Jeezy’s coterie a couple years ago, and he’s in jail again. Not that being thug life makes you punch women. Tupac would never do that.

Anyway, it’s taken me some time to understand what Gucci’s discography looks like. He is truly a rapper 3.0, because most of his impressively prolific oeuvre consists of many mixtapes. However, he’s still got some studio albums called Trap House and also Back to the Trap House. In two weeks, The State vs. Radric Davis drops. (Gucci’s given name is Radric Davis.) Sensing a theme here?

Do you want to understand the charms of Gucci Mane? No, you don’t want to listen to someone who beats women? Well, let’s hope that jail rehabilitates him a little this time.

Please enjoy my top 3 2009 Gucci traxxx:

Pretty Girls

Instead of peddling pap to larger audiences with Lady Gaga on “Chillin,'” Wale should have led his debut album Attention Deficit with this summer-appropriate jam about girls, featuring Gucci. Gaga’s poor imitation of M.I.A. really ruined it for Wale on that first single. “Pretty Girls” features some lively street percussion (think hand claps and plastic buckets) paired with a gospel-esque organ. Gucci rhymes about riding girls like a Huffy, and seeing similarities between diamonds and slushies. The whole thing makes for a tune I’d like to blare out of my convertible on a hot day.

Spotlight

This is Gucci’s nicest single from his forthcoming studio album. There was the very crunk “Wasted,” with Plies (who the fuck is that?), which sounds as though everyone was wasted while recording it. And now we have a modest, unpretentious Usher club song that provides the basic bump and grind it aimed to. Most amusing moment: Usher asks, “How you doin Gucci?” at beginning of the song, and Gucci responds by saying, “Yeaaaah…” as though he is slowly, reluctantly rising from his lazyboy when someone calls him from the kitchen. Second most amusing moment: the line that starts with “Gucci on Elimidate.”

Shine Blockas

Gucci will never make art like a member of Outkast, but he can keep up with Big Boi’s bounce in this optimistic ditty about maintaining one’s shine, regardless of circumstances. As always, Gucci’s presence is introduced by a series of excited self proclamations: “Gucci!” Wait a couple measures… then: “Gucci!” I guess I’d be that excited about myself if I was Gucci Mane too.

Update: Kanye West in 2009

Shiny orbs reveal a contemplative Kanye

Last year this time I was sullenly nodding along to Kanye’s “808s and Heartbreak.” This year this time I am marveling at Kanye’s 2009 brand expansion. He didn’t put out an album, but he was all over everybody else’s, guesting, producing, sputtering, chuckling, but mostly, as some might say, spittin’ raw game.

Probably because everyone was so mad at him for making a depressing cd, Kanye made up for all that 2008 autotuning with some witty, sad, self-reflective, angry and haughty rhymes on his various guest appearances.

A playlist of Kanye’s 12–COUNT EM’–12 singles is available for your listening pleasure (or displeasure, depending on the song) here. The best of this crop is “Walkin’ on the Moon,” with the-Dream. I LOVE THAT SONG! But other artists with whom Kanye worked successfully include Rick Ross, Keri Hilson and Clipse. Least successful collabs were with the Teriyaki Boyz, as well as with everyone and their mom on “Forever,” which is an EPIC FAIL (to use internet speak) featuring the megastars Drake, Lil Wayne and Eminem. (I think it’s because I HATE DRAKE.)

Many of these songs feature similar themes and references to products. Below is a sort of index for Kanye’s songs of this last year. I was inspired by the index Slate compiled for Sarah Palin’s new book; the index topics revealed a lot about the book, so if you don’t have time to listen to Kanye, this list will fill you in on what you missed.

Brands (cars):

Mercedes Benz (Maybach Music 2, Poke Her Face, Whatever U Want)

Maybach (Maybach Music 2, obviously), also known as “May-what?” (Run This Town)

Lexus (Maybach Music 2, Whatever U Want)

Ferrari (Walkin’ On the Moon)

Volvo, did not buy for family a (Run This Town)

Rav 4, did not become a rapper to drive a (Run This Town)

Brands (not cars):

-Reebok, implying it is okay to wear a pair of (Knock You Down), scoffing that you still own pair of (Run This Town)

-Louis Vuitton, implying it is higher class to wear (Knock You Down),

-Dolce & Gabbana, in your closet, Kanye finds (The Big Screen)

-Grey Poupon, rhymes with poop (Mayback Music 2)

Women:

-dykes, at the club, men who are not Kanye get (Maybach Music 2)

-breasts, for women who want them, Kanye will purchase new (Whatever U Want)

-nipples, aka bee stings (Run This Town)

-Michelle Obama, just cuz (Forever)

-sororities, Kanye has seniority at (Poke Her Face)

Movies:

-Good Will Hunting, in a sea of ill-will, Kanye goes (Run This Town)

-Karate Kid, because Kanye is rhyming with Asians, he mentions (Teriyaking)

-Return of the Jedi, when Kanye returns from out of town, it is similar to (The Big Screen)

-Hollywood (The Big Screen, Forever)

Wine Varietals:

riesling, drank too much (Run This Town)

Champagne, drank a little (Poke Her Face)

Affecting Foreign Accents:

‘chahnce, ‘ British pronunciation of the word “chance” (Supernova)

‘ting,’ Jamaican pronunciation of the word “thing” (The Big Screen)

Technology:

Macbook Air, Digitial Girl in question watched on(Digital Girl)

Blackberry, please stop using your (Walkin’ On The Moon)

-Macberry, horrible pun referring to iPhone (Walkin’ On The Moon)

-OMG, Internet lingo (Knock You Down)

texting, drunk (Walkin’ on the Moon)

Biology/biological functions:

gonads, someone grabbed him by the (Teriyaking)

poop, used in extended metaphor about world as his commode (Maybach Music 2, Teriyaking)

dick,  to prove point to women, Kanye uses (all songs)

-Medulla Oblongata (Poke Her Face)

-scoliosis (Poke Her Face)

comatosis, rhymes with scoliosis (Poke Her Face)

-sex, in library (Poke Her Face), with mentally challenged girls (Kinda Like a Big Deal)

Musical References:

-Slick Rick, Kanye is the new (Knock You Down)

-Hey Young World, [Slick Rick reference] (Knock You Down)

-Michael Jackson, this is bad, real bad, similar to the album by (Knock You Down)

Joe Jackson, Kanye is mad, real mad, similar to the mood of (Knock You Down)

Emotional Themes:

-palpable regret (all songs, especially Kinda Like a Big Deal, Run This Town, Walkin on the Moon, Knock You Down)

-haughtiness (all songs, especially Mayback Music 2, Poke Her Face, Whatever U Want, Forever)

-combination regret & haughtiness (all songs)

But shiny bags can't take away the pain

Hey, shut up, Kid Sister is pretty good

de colores... de kid sister

Kid Sister’s debut album, Ultraviolet, finally came out yesterday after a couple years of hype. I need not get into the whole drama, cuz many others have already done so. The point is, 2 years ago we heard/were amused by the song “Pro Nails.” Kanye was slightly less ubiquitous then, so when he guested on that song, peeps’ ears perked up, and Kid Sister got a hometown boost from fellow Chicagoan Kanye.

I have just one thing to say to Ultraviolet‘s haters: this album should be heard in the context of what we hear on the radio. The production sounds like it cost about a million dollars more than any Jay Sean/Jason DeRulo/Treyz Songs/Drake/whoevs ’90sesque club single. Defmute asked me, all concerned, “Are there Chris Brown synths?” This means: “How generic and cheap does her production sound?” My answer: Not bad. Heard on hi-def headphones, the opening eurodisco stomp of “Right Hand Hi” sounds pretty darn expensive.

True, Ultraviolet is not in league with genre-bending high-minded pop, a la Kanye or M.I.A. But let’s not punish this album for what it never tried to be. This album is a cheerful throwback, all ’80s neon and Bassment Party rap reminiscent of last year’s big shit The Cool Kids. This album is a more successful Santigold, because I am certain that no one, other than the critics who ludicrously endorsed her, actually listened to that album. I think people will listen to and enjoy Kid Sister–she’s goofy, she’s pretty, she raps about Payless and Bath & Body works (that is to say, she is humble), and she has some good producers. This album also taught me a couple things about dance genres, and though the experts might scoff, dudes, I don’t know what kind of manic tom makes good juke, and if I hear some distortion that reminds me of MSTRKRFT, I will be happy. Hence Kid Sister sounds like fun dance music to me.

Not all songs are solid gold, but I would say that 50% of the album is great, including “Right Hand Hi,” “Life on TV,” “Control,” “Get Fresh,” and “Switch Board.”

So check it out and stop hatin. And for god’s sake, Pfork, don’t say Sister’s rhymes remind you of “actors in teen movies rapping for laughs.” Maybe it’s cuz you haven’t heard a woman rapping and having fun at the same time… like, ever.

 

Art & Life: A Reflection on Expectations of Chris Brown and Rihanna

Cyrillic lookin fonts never get old, no matter how many times you use them on Roman letters. Both Rihanna and Chris Brown are back. As Slate pointed out, there is something very cringe-worthy about enjoying Brown’s work. One of his new singles, “I Can Transform Ya,” is cocky and self-assured, and, content-wise, totally unrelated to his recent plea of guilt in the state of California. The single features Lil Wayne, who, besides fraternizing with a domestic abuser, has his own problems these days.

Anyway, even if it is absolutely morally revolting to enjoy Chris Brown (I know it is for me), I would never suggest we ban his music from our personal listening rotation. Even though his artistic persona has been revealed as a total lie, (as Slate noted, “An R&B loverman best known for a domestic-violence conviction is an insupportable contradiction”), art still needs distance from the personal life of the artist. We’d have pretty much no one to appreciate if all artists were judged by the merits of their personal character or politics–that’s right, we’d have to say good-bye to Polanski, Woody Allen, Heidegger, etc. I’m just trying to say that I hate censorship, and only believe it’s necessary when hate speech enters the ring.

Rihanna’s new single, unlike Brown’s, doesn’t enjoy very much liberty from the February assault. Its first sound is the cry of a lone guitar streaming across the sonic landscape, signaling a Red Dawn. “Russian Roulette” isn’t about Russia, however–though the cyrillic-lookin font plastering the single cover might have you thinking differently (see above). The song’s mood is foreboding, the lyrics dark, the song structure torn out of the heartbroken-ballad song book.  The last sound in the song is a gun shot, because, ahem, she lost at the high stakes game of roulette.

I think it’s unfair to only read this song through the lens of her recent life events, but I’m doing it to illustrate a point. It’s more acceptable in this here society to let the abusers move on, artistically unscathed, while Rihanna, the abused, returns with a persona that recalls this year’s events.

Yet, detractors may say, Rihanna’s always had a dark side. Even the sundrenched Barbados days of her earlier singles were tinged with the chaos-making agents of love, that is, madness and desperation. (See: S.O.S.) Detractors, I agree. But check out this further evidence that Rihanna’s new stuff is related to her personal life:

In this month’s issue of Glamour, Rihanna says of her new album:

I put everything I’ve wanted to say for the past eight months into my music. The songs are really personal.

So that’s good, if it helped her deal. I’m not asking Rihanna to do anything contrary to what she feels like doing. But we women are always supposed to infuse our art with emotion and personal experience. When women’s art is detached from our emotional life, we’re accused of being cold and fucked up. No one expects any kind of musical reflection from Chris Brown. He is free to be whoever the fuck he wants to be, and no one will ever wonder why he didn’t make a song about what it feels like to be a domestic abuser.

One day, I hope women won’t be chained (or barb-wired, as is the case with Rihanna) to our feelings. In the meantime, I still can’t wait for November 23rd, the day Rihanna’s cd comes out.