Weird, Lonely People

I initially glossed over Young Galaxy’s “Pretty Boy,” probably because it came out during a week that was absolutely loaded with new music releases (The Thermals, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Junip), but on second look/listen I think that both the song and the video are pretty noteworthy.

The song is about connecting with someone through mutual feelings of alienation (“And I know that you feel isolated/ and I feel what you won’t say/ I don’t care if the disbelievers understand/ You’re my pretty boy, always”), being brought together and experiencing a fondness for someone through shared estrangement from other people. As an added bonus, the subject of the song is a “pretty boy,” and it’s used here without the negative (to some people) connotation of “man who looks like a woman.” Being a pretty boy is the equivalent to being attractive in a feminine way, which is both celebrated (Tiger Beat) and scorned (everywhere else), but Young Galaxy’s Catherine McCandless is singing from affection and not sexual attraction.

This is explored in the video, as the two characters are wearing disconcerting rubber masks. The masks are a signifier of weirdness, or more specifically, the feeling of being too strange to connect with other people. They wear masks because they are outcasts, and when they find each other, they recognize kinship because of their similar presentation. They are the only two people in the video wearing the masks, which is a reflection of how they understand and relate to one another as misfits.

MIXTAPE: End of the Year Freak Out

I know it’s not the end of the technical year, but for me and my graduating buddies at UTD it is. It would be nicer if you could graduate from college with a semblance of control or sanity, because damn these past few months have killed me like nothing before. I have a really great group in my capstone class, though, so be sure to check out their work:

Color Made Visible by Deepti
Write that Fanfiction by Karla
Mirror, Media by Christy
Paper, Print & Pixels by Janet
Parenting from a Distance by Lauren
Celebrate She by Nakoya

This goes out to all of them, as well as our advisor Kim, who has bent over backwards to make sure we have everything we need to do well.

This playlist is a little wonky, partially because there’s an unusual amount of garage rock, and partially because there are so many songs that are gendered (genderisasocialconstruct genderisasocialconstruct genderisasocialconstruct). Also note how many of the songs have a variant of “work” in them.

Can I just say that I have never identified with “I’m gonna make it through this year if it kills me” as much as I do now? (See track 5.)

End of the Year Freak Out: Capstone Edition! by Neophyteblog on Mixcloud

1) The Way that You Work – Les Sexareenos
2) Progress Man – Bad Sports
3) Ready to Go! – Bare Wires
4) Take it from the Man – The Brian Jonestown Massacre
5) This Year – The Mountain Goats
6) Work – Jimmy Eat World
7) It Ain’t Easy – David Bowie
8) Stress Rap – Cannibal Ox
9) Woman at Work – Psalm One
10) Werkin’ Girls – Angel Haze

If you’re interested, here’s the video intro for my capstone presentation:

Not a Neophyte from Chelsea Upton on Vimeo.

MIXTAPE: Do Your Thing

I can’t really lie, I centered this entire mixtape around Junip’s “Your Life Your Call,” because it’s been one of those repeat songs for me for a bit. It’s a good song, and it’s the first one in the mix, so you should definitely at least check that one out. I’m pretty excited about others on there, too. I remember when the Jeremih and Shlohmo track was released I might have stopped breathing for a bit, and Jai Paul’s “Jasmine” is pretty relevant now, since he did not really release an album this week.

It might not be the most cohesively themed tape that I’ve ever made, but that’s why I called it “Do Your Thing.” Because I am.

Do Your Thing by Neophyteblog on Mixcloud

1) Your Life Your Call – Junip
2) Suddenly – Normal Love
3) Jasmine – Jai Paul
4) South Africa (Crystal Balls on Roll) – Dumbo Gets Mad
5) Walk On By – El Perro Del Mar
6) Luvvbazar – Ssion
7) Drink to Moving On – Grand National
8) Prisoner – Har Mar Superstar
9) Bo Peep (Do U Right) – Jeremih and Shlohmo
10) & It Was U (Elite Gymnastics Remix) – How to Dress Well

Boys Will Be Boys

I just recently downloaded Cassie’s new mixtape, so in quasi-celebration of that (I’m a fan), I thought I would crank out a few long-sitting opinions about the video she and Nicki Minaj made for “The Boys.” The song is a typical narrative but from a different perspective — some nameless dude uses his money and power to bag a bunch of women as his prizes, but because it’s told from the perspective of women onlookers, the male braggadocio is something to be scorned, instead of praised. (“Your lipstick stain smells like a cheap hotel/
Diamond watches and a gold chain can’t make my frown turn around.”)

The video is also cartoonishly feminine, which is a common trope for Minaj, who frequently refers to herself as “Barbie.” Nicki commands a group of men dressed in bright pink, then enters a salon, which we see from the beginning will turn into a crime scene. There are surface-level comparisons to the video for Beyonce and Lady Gaga’s “Telephone,” which also prominently features a crime scene perpetrated by the singers, but “The Boys” is less an avenue for random chaos and more a story of control. Cassie is dressed in bright, feminine colors, but still postures herself in a masculine way, sitting with her legs spread and tossing money in mocking imitation of the men she sings about (“You get high/ fuck a bunch of girls / and then cry / on top of your world”). The murder of the men is a gendered revenge, a more gruesome role reversal, as it’s often women who suffer violence at the hands of men.

MIXTAPE: Sad Summer Vol. 1

First, I just wanted to say thanks to all of you. I was incredibly shocked by how popular my post about women on the college radio charts was, and it’s been really great to see that that resonated with a lot of people. In other good news, I was on Broadist! So I’m sure you can tell I’ve been busy.

Even though so many great things have happened, I’m kind of in a funk right now. I would normally not post about these sorts of things, but I think it’s important to acknowledge, at the very least to get rid of the stigma. So if anyone else is in that spot, I feel you! And this mixtape is specifically for you. I’m calling it “Sad Summer Vol. 1” because I am very, very certain that this won’t be my last sad-themed mixtape. And having a bummer summer is pretty normal. (Even though it’s technically still spring? Well… whatever.)

(FYI I will make you a mixtape just ask.)

Sad Summer Vol. 1 by Neophyteblog on Mixcloud

1) Summertime Sadness (Ryan Hemsworth Remix) – Lana Del Rey
2) Without You feat. Kerry Leathem – Lapalux
3) She – Lomovolokno
4) Open (Ryan Hemsworth Remix) – Rhye
5) 23 – Blonde Redhead
6) Creepwave – Kilo Kish
7) In the Same Way feat. Lauren Jade – The Broken Orchestra
8) The End – Sybille Baier
9) Oh Father (Madonna Cover) – Perfume Genius
10) We are Fine – Sharon Van Etten

(as a side note, you should really watch this Lapalux video)

Chelsea Hotel No. 2 Part 2

I think it’s impossible to be a fan of music and not have an opinion on Lana Del Rey, not so much because of her music (which I honestly believe is good, if unremarkable), but because of how meaningful her presentation is. The main critique she faces (besides maybe not being so great on SNL) is that she is “fake.” Her lips are fake, her name is fake, and she was carefully crafted to reach pop stardom through appealing to our penchant for nostalgia. It’s notable that she referred to herself as a “self-stylized gangsta Nancy Sinatra,” because that in and of itself is an acknowledgement of the illusion. When appearance is so crucial (even so crucial as to warrant a change of one) what does it mean when you acknowledge how carefully crafted your persona is?

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on Lana Del Rey and authenticity (half because it would have been more relevant two years ago, and half because it has been so well covered), but I do think it’s important background for her cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel No. 2.”

The imagery is pretty much what I would expect of Del Rey: lots of mournful shots of cigarette smoking and nostalgic filters (the close-up of the Marlboro box is particularly scoff-worthy). It’s sad and beautiful (but very, very carefully stylized) in a way that is reminiscent of truth, but not quite there.

What’s interesting is that she picked “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” to cover for her tryst into the imagery and sound of the 1970s. The song is famously about a sexual encounter that songwriter Leonard Cohen had with Janice Joplin, released in 1974, four years after Joplin died. The song itself is sad but irksome, acknowledging the fact that Joplin is successful and capable (“giving me head on the unmade bed / while the limousines wait in the street”) while still being condescending and critical about Joplin’s sexuality and lifestyle ( “I don’t mean to suggest that I loved you the best / I can’t keep track of each fallen robin”). It’s a song about remembering someone you didn’t love, and Cohen singing this to Joplin has a very different meaning than Del Rey singing to an unknown person.

Del Rey doesn’t change (heterosexual) gender identifiers in the song, singing to someone who still “prefers handsome men,” but it’s still interesting to see how the power play in the song changes when she, as a woman, sings it. The subject becomes less of a damaged object and morphs into the one who got away. The line of “I didn’t love you the best” reads without condescension, instead taking on a mournful tone.

Perhaps it has more to do with the fact that Del Rey is singing to an unknown instead of (the very famous, very successful) Janis Joplin, but I would argue that it has more to do with the level of fame in conjunction with the gender of both parties. It’s easy for Cohen to patronize Joplin when she has been dead for four years and has had a laundry list of troubles, but Del Rey singing the same song takes away that context and destroys that uncomfortable gender dynamic present in the song. Joplin as the “fallen robin” is akin to a soiled dove, a woman destroyed by her appetites, both sexual and recreational. The unidentified person Del Rey is singing to is much more ambiguous, and could just as easily be interpreted as a failed lover than as sexual encounter with someone to be pitied.

The video itself is pretty bland, as Del Rey prettily mopes (while singing “we are ugly but still have the music,” no less) and emulates an older aesthetic. The nostalgia (for a time that Del Rey was not born yet) could be seen as an homage to Cohen, but knowing Del Rey’s tendencies, it probably has more to do with the idealized beauty of the past. The best counterpoint to that idealized beauty is, funnily enough, the lyrics to Cohen’s own song.

Mixtape: Let’s Get Out of Here

This one goes out to my best friend Leyla, a super-talented lady who was nice enough to make the banner for my site. It’s weird being separated from someone you care so much about (she lives in a different country at the moment), and that’s sort of the theme of this mixtape — it’s a combination of running away from a city that alienates you and moving on with someone new.

I couldn’t really make a mixtape called “Let’s Get Out of Here” without including the Les Savy Fav song of the same name, so I hope you’ll excuse me for that moment of cheesiness.

Let's Get Out of Here by Neophyteblog on Mixcloud

1) Way Back Home – Rodeo
2) Run Run Run – Dragonette
3) City Grrrl (Teeth Remix) – CSS
4) Anywhere But Here (feat. Emily Panic) – Killer Mike
5) Runaway Love – Diamond Rings
6) Running – Jessie Ware
7) Montana – Elite Gymnastics
8) Let’s Get Out of Here – Les Savy Fav
9) Next Stop – Bleached
10) Highway 61 Revisited – PJ Harvey
11) Cherokee – Cat Power

Want a mixtape? You know the drill.