Monday, August 26, 2013

You Can't Spell "Bimbo" Without "Bomb," Dept.

Right.  So, Miley Cyrus at the VMAs.  Lots of churn about this today.  I watched her performance just now.  A few thoughts.
  • Has her management decided that the Humbert Humbert demo is her sweet spot?  Also, are plushies the new gay?  Because I liked the old gay way more.
  • Miley apparently suffers from an affliction that prevents her from keeping her tongue in her mouth--the poor creature gurns like Keith Prodigy after a wasabi gargle.
  • "La-da-di-da-di, we like to par-ty" is the stupidest line in an English-language song since Vortigern invited the Saxons to Albion.  Fact.
  • During the latter half of this number, after she's shed her PaedoPals™ outfit in favor of a bra and panties because clothing is so, ohmygod, clothingy, Miley employs a large white foam hand in a variety of ways, but primarily to point at her and others' genitals.  I have never been a supporter of abstinence education.  Until now.
  • Is Robin Thicke the George Michael of his generation?  Because he sucks, and George Michael didn't.  So, that made me wonder.
  • No, but really: what the fuck is up with the stuffed animals?
  • Miley likes to twerk.  But not in a boner-inducing way.  More like in a poodle-on-your-leg way.
  • If you have to ask the crowd at the VMAs to "make some noise," you're not doing your job. 
As part of my research, I also watched the video for "We Can't Stop"--because life is too short to do worthwhile things--where I learned a few more things about Miley: (i) she likes black people's bottoms; ii) she is open to the idea of sex with girls, but not in a flannel-shirt-Indigo Girls-Home-Depot-habitué way; (iii) she's like Fiona Apple without the edge or intelligence or musical ability; (iv) she photographs well.

So, I listened to the Big Three singles for this summer by women and watched the corresponding VMA performances: Miley's "We Can't Stop," Lady Gaga's "Applause" and Katy Perry's "Roar."  Then I thought of the book Girls Like Us, which chronicles the lives of Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon as they took off from the '60s into the '70s.  Let's think back 40 years.  Carole King had released Tapestry two years earlier, Joni was between Blue and Court and Spark, Carly had just released No Secrets and "You're So Vain" was everywhere.

I don't think it's an unfair comparison; only Miley is considerably younger than the other five at the same point in their lives.  Carole, Joni and Carly were not art-rock princesses playing rarefied airs to the intelligentsia; they were mainstream "pop" artists, none more so than King who had minted millions of 45s as a songwriter in the shadow of the Brill Building.  Of Miley, Gaga and Katy, only Gaga has the craft and smarts to be playing anywhere near the league of their foremothers and, even then, the shtick gets in the way of the songs.

So, yeah.  Sorry, kids.  Your music sucks like an open chest wound.  But, hey, twerking plushies!  That's gotta count for something, right?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Perfect Storm, Dept.

Maria Callas, "Un Voce Poco Fa, Hamburg, May 1959

When people ask you "What's the big deal about Maria Callas?", you can just dial up this live performance and hit 'play.'

From 1959, the year of Onassis, and with him very much front of mind--their lives, once only tangential, now, mostly by design, were about to collide--she brings intensity, a houseful of charisma and the last of her good voice to a recital in Hamburg.

For many years, there has been discussion of the role of Callas' sudden weight loss in the ultimate deterioration of her voice.  How she could no longer support the huge voice she had with a much smaller frame.  Watching this performance, I saw Maria Callas in her designer ensemble looking beautiful and projecting beauty as being strongly informed by the absence of the negative body self-image she had when she was heavier.  One may wish that she had accepted herself at her earlier weight rather than attempt and achieve such a dramatic change.

That noted, I would think that there would be a profoundly satisfying energy to achieving one's society's ideals of beauty--and even helping to define them--for most people.  Take, then, an intense, driven, hugely talented and intelligent woman who had suffered from being the "ugly ducking", to use her words, in the shadow of her more conventionally and perennially beautiful sister for all of her youth and adolescence.  Post-Weight Loss, she could go toe to toe with Grace Kelly in the looks and glamour departments and did.  For good or ill, I don't think the Maria Callas we know would have been a non-weight loss Maria Callas.

Una voce poco fa
qui nel cor mi risuono
il mio cor ferito e' gia
e Lindor fu che il piago.
Si', Lindoro mio sara
lo giurai, la vincero
Il tutor ricusera
io l'ingegno aguzzero
Alla fin s'acchetera
e contenta io restero
Si', Lindoro mio sara
lo giurai, la vincero

Io sono docile,
son rispettosa
sono obbediente,
dolce, amorosa
mi lascio reggere,
mi fo guidar.
Ma se mi toccano dov'e'
il mio debole
saro' una vipera
e cento trappole
prima di cedere faro' giocar,etc.

A voice a while back
echoes here in my heart;
already my heart has been pierced
and Lindoro inflicted the wound.
Yes, Lindoro shall be mine;
I swear it, I will win.
My guardian will refuse me;
I shall sharpen all my wits.
In the end he will be calmed
and I shall rest content...
Yes, Lindoro shall be mine;
I swear it, I will win.

I am docile,
I'm respectful,
I'm obedient,
gentle, loving;
I let myself be ruled,
I let myself be guided.
But if they touch me
on my weak spot,
I'll be a viper
and a hundred tricks
I'll play before I yield,etc