- The US has a completely insane sense of political discourse. Two wars on, economic meltdown due to lax financial oversight, torture being allowed, and somehow something involving Paris Hilton is a front-page item. Yes, this was one reason I moved back, SRSLY. I do not miss being immersed in this. I do recognize this is what the media focuses on because the people read it and click it and watch the video, and I think the people do so because they don't feel they have actual control over the larger issues, and this is what is left once you are numb to how powerless the voters actually are to create meaningful government in the entrenched US political system.
- Where's Britney's video? I mean, she was in McCain's celebrity spot too! Hello, she needs to get cracking.
Because they are such Awesomely Well Made Awesomely Bad Pop. The central part of a pop song, the voice, is so useless in Montag's case that every trick is pulled out to make it, well, we can't call it 'work', so let's call it 'lounge around successfully'. Doubling, tripling, pitch correction so blatant it goes into pure robo-voice territory, quadrupling that robo-voice as backing vocals again, rip-off Timbaland productions, and lyrics so awesomely bad the whole thing is trying to pass off being a dumb falling-over drunk ready to go get banged by some frat douche as a sexy almost-mystically sensual mature experience.
I listen to it on repaeat three times, my mouth hanging open some production team would try to sell something that is the music equivalent of an overproduced SNL skit about Britney for reals. Yet they do.
I'm in love. Someone please tell me Fashion is being remixed for a Homo Shirtless Streetfair Dance Party.
I have written before about how the transition to digital technology is changing the notion and perception of 'static', whether new generations would recognize the references to static in pre-digital media, now that a transmission or playback error no longer takes the form of visual or audio 'noise' but pixelization or silence. Yet recently I saw a Verizon commercial where the daughter tried to get away from her curfew by having her friends imitate traditional static and her mother on the other end of the line pointing out that that was simply impossible on Verizon's network, after which the daughter switched to claiming the sounds were ambient noise.
I was thinking about this recently in the context of YouTube and the art form of the music video. It seems like a natural match, short video and a medium for showing short video, but it is actually a really bad fit in my opinion. Pop-music videos, like pop-music, rely on a lot of dynamic changes, like beats, to stay interesting, often punctuated by dramatic moments. In other words, something's gotta happen often, and have a big wow from time to time, or we get bored. Thing is, digital video is really bad at both, the encoding algorithms rely on there being very little difference between one image and the next to be able to pack video in what little bandwidth we actually have. Beats, visual or audio, going bam bam bam bam are about a full change between one image and the next. People moving over a static background means very little difference between one image and the next, so there is a lot of room for information to be pushed down the pipe. Have a the background moving as well, or changing color or brightness rapidly, and there is so much difference between one image and the next that the channel cannot keep up.
Somewhere in the early nineties, as music videos grew up from their infancy of just recording performances with camera tricks and their adolescence of trying to be a movie, the Brits started shooting videos with an insane amount of cuts and movement, foreground and background, to keep visual interest. I was recently thinking about the prime example of that style and wondering how it would survive on YouTube, and by coincidence it got posted on my flist today.
Bros -- "I Owe You Nothing"
Total YouTube failure. There isn't a single frame where there isn't pixelisation, where every face isn't some form of a blur -- and those boys were so airbrushed already -- and the backgrounds are just a mess. Look, this video isn't art and never was meant to be, but it was a prime example of its time, and it basically cannot be seen properly in this new medium. Contrast that with a video of which the director explicitly tried to make something that would work as well on a TV screen as YouTube. It had to be dynamic and exciting on the 60" screen, but not become a blur on the 2" one. It was done with very static backgrounds. Static camera shots. If there is movement, it is controlled. Close-ups are always still. The going in and out of focus on the face is so managed that the pixelisation works with it as a cute effect.
Rhianna -- "Umbrella"
Incidentally, I do not believe for a moment that was Rhianna herself dancing en pointe. I never got a full shot of her doing it. I am ready to be told wrong. I am also now wondering whether sets and editing rooms for video shoots will have rudimentary YouTube encoding equipment on hand to see directly how well a shot or cut will show up.
Not all of the early and mid-nineties videos are completely lost, of course, but often do not fare so well. Take the following one, one of my absolute favorite videos, which uses dance as its main visual hook. It stalls on my underpowered laptop from time to time, takes out fluidity or power in the movements, and chances are very visual dramatic moment at 3:52 simply gets dropped on the digital floor never to be seen because it uses one of the most awkward objects for digital video to try to encode: smoke, and lots of it. The result is an approximation of the performance: you kinda know what everyone intended, but you just can't really sink into it because your brain constantly has to fill in the blanks YouTube drops.
New Order -- "True Faith" I can't wait for a better medium than YouTube for music videos. I consider it a bad fit. Music videos weren't made for YouTube, and YouTube obliterates them, makes them absolutely irritating. All the subtelty of lighting and motion becomes a stuttering mess. A medium that makes Mark Romanek's work look anything but sleek and crafted doesn't deserve it.
David Bowie -- "Jump They Say"
No, YouTube should be used for its own art and entertainment that was specifically made for it. Not to broadcast media that was made for a different form of transmission, but for people who start fresh, whose work does not rely on what YouTube is bad at, but use YouTube for what it is good at: the conversation YouTube is embedded in, to layer idea upon idea upon idea. Make it have its own stars, like timfogartyfeed recently showed me.
kevjumba & Happy Slip -- "Put It In Purse"
Knowing their sons and daughters in the military were made to torture didn't do it. I was hoping the video of spoiled chick who started crying because her Lexus was given to her at the wrong time during her sweet sixteen celebration (warning, I can't stand to look at the whole video but I think this one is it) would be it -- you can't make decadence any clearer -- but it hasn't happened. It would have meant that that girl would have done a real public service, though. I had a glimmer that the commutation of the sentence would do it, but that is fizzling too. One has to wonder what it takes.
But then I think I'd be boring myself.
Actually, it is hysterical how Dean (pinkfish) and Peg (his mom) and I are all on our computers comparing whether Nick & Jessica's split-up is front page news left and right. Of course, Peg and Denman barely know who Nick & Jessica are ("Who?" Alba? No, Simpson!"), and Dean keeps telling them "They are Americas favorite couple!", facetiously, and I keep yelling that that is MTV talking and their America is under 25.
I bet they aren't even America's favorite couple for the under-25 set.
Edit: For my recent readers, I am not really crushed. They scare me.
Diddy was an embarrassement. That night he lost all pretension of being anything than a self-aggrandizing poser -- literally: all he did was strike poses and talk about how cool everything was, especially because he was there. We all knew it was coming, but one has to watch the trainwreck to see just how much he would use this opportunity to plug anything and everything connected to his label: random artists on stage, random shout outs, an idiotic skit about his name changes. The crowd shots were usally of other celebrities, and they were doing what they could not to walk out. His tribute to B.I.G. was tasteless in its fakeness, showing some B.I.G. videos in all his fat sweaty sticky glory on the ubiquitous screens while an attempt to graft some gravitas was made by having Diddy pretended to formally conduct an actual playing orchestra. Nobody was buying it, because there was nothing to be bought other than Diddy finding another opportunity to shine and trying to get cred by bring Snoop on stage. His other little skit to get his current cash-cow, Omarion, some stage time became absurd when Diddy actually tried to share that stage time with his own dance moves, of which the woodenness had already been painfully showcased during the opening whatever-that-was.
MC Hammer appearing was a genuine OMGWTF moment, which then quickly became very sad because of his missed cues and anemic rapping. The rest was people cynically shelling their wares, culminating with Eric Roberts announcing someone or somebody but not before mentioning that he never watched videos, had nothing to do with them until by coincidence he did 3 of them in a month, and then plugged his son's new CD and mentioned his website, and only then came to the point he had been given a microphone for. The audience shots reflected that by now all the pimping of labels and stables had left the audience beyond embarrassement, and now just plain annoyed. Or gasping at how crappy Lohan looked, and how vulgar -- hot, but vulgar -- Longhoria looked, and how R.Kelly needs some quiet time far, far, far away from us.
In an evening in which at least four awards were handed out to rock groups, only two performances could qualify as rock, of which Green Day, opening it all, did indeed rock. The Killers, well, they tried, but their song was about pasty white boy pathos, and while they performed it just fine, that really gets in the way of actual rocking. Only one pop performance I can actually recall at this point -- Shakira being her amazing self -- eventhough Kelly Clarckson walked off with three statuettes. Her major contribution that night was wonderfully sending up the whole posse thing by during her first speech, while being completely floored and out of breath at having won, mentioning that she didn't have a posse so instead that girl they saw her almost literally drag on stage was her best friend. Who really should have dressed for the occasion.
Well, if it all was to be rap-themed, thank the lord for Kanye West. While his "Jesus Walks" track irritates me to no end with the Christian persecution complex displayed within, when he took the stage with Jamie Foxx the intensity of what they were doing, the actual skill displayed both singing and rapping, for one brief moment blew all of Diddy's empty gunk away from the screen, showing that even in that genre some people actually have chops, and others end up being award-show hosts.
Yet when I browse the iTunes Music Store, I end up clicking 'Buy Now' again and again.
I listened to the Britney album too, and I liked one song so much I bought it. It was both chic and sexy and that's why I love it. I am constantly playing it. Here's the thing: I am elated I could purchase the one song of an album that I liked.
But still. I bought a Britney song for a buck. And the SF Gate review is right, she really does not sound human at all.
Another unexpected person who lends Britney a hand on the new album is techno nutter Moby, who obviously signed up for the job under the mistaken impression that he could make her sound more human. Oh, and probably because he didn't make enough money selling all his songs to Pampers and Taco Bell. His song "Early Mornin' " is the worst thing ever. If somebody wanted to hear a Kraftwerk record with high-pitched bird noises on it, then they would just buy the last thing Brian Eno put out.
Now MTV has always had to deal with charges of being compleltly faux-subversive, eventhough it was the first channel to publicize bigtime the images that struck fear in white America and ended up being emulated by way too many suburban kids and now Justin Timberlake. However, it becomes apparent quite quickly that what Boliling Point as a show rewards, and thus holds up, perhaps unwittingly, as exemplary, is conformism to authority figures, other people's anger and intrusions, and submission to circumstances. It is quite remarkable just how far they think is funny to show, I am waiting for the team to stalk women on a campus at night and see how quickly they reach Boiling Point -- and reward on national cable the one who is cool with it.
That's it. MTV is now explicitely sending the message that To Be A Tool Is Cool. Perhaps they can show manufactured youth rebellion on some video on M2, but Boiling Point makes quite clear what the media wants out of its consumers: submission for the chance of being a one-hundred-buck whore.