Austra

18 01 2012

I think I may have discovered my new favourite band. That is hard for me to say, since Erasure have occupied the most prominent setting in my crown of musical gems since 1995. That may soon change. Their competitor is Austra, a synthpop/darkwave/indie electronica band from Toronto who just released their debut album, Feel It Break, last year. (Yes, I know, as usual I am late to the game.) However I am not yet ready to give the number one position to Austra, simply because Erasure have produced fourteen studio albums, and I have only heard one by Austra, but if they keep up the amazing work, they very well could earn that place. Besides, a tie between the two bands isn’t entirely out of the question.

OK, so you want to know what the hype is all about, don’t you? It’s about their coherent, well-developed style, their professional-sounding technical wizardry, their eerily fun dance sensibility, lead singer Katie Stelmanis’s chillingly pure, cold voice, their artistically spooky themes, their rich harmonies, their otherworldly melodies. All of these in combination produce a lush, full, satisfying sonic experience. Listening to their debut album, Feel It Break, one imagines opening up a book of occult lore and exploring the hidden mysteries within. I would liken them to a cross between Florence and the Machine, Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees, and Karin Dreijer of The Knife and Fever Ray. But at least as creepy as Karin Dreijer. Finally, an album that sounds weirdly Scandinavian without getting mired in slow, dissonant, undanceable experimentalism. It’s musically exploratory, thematically fascinating, and fun to dance to.

Check out the video for their single Spellwork, taken from the debut album. In my opinion is encapsulates the overall deliciously spooky theme of the work:

This song gives me goosebumps. One thing that stands out is the strong verse-chorus structure characteristic of pop songs—but it’s all done in such a beautifully strange and ethereal way that it doesn’t sound commercial or formulaic. Stelmanis’s eerily quavering vocals are spot-on, the melody soars like some dark-winged bird over bare tree branches, and those rich harmonies complete the vocal arrangements. And those layers upon layers of tinkling synthesisers just sweep you away into a glittering fairy world of yore. I can’t get enough of the cryptic occult references, either. Lots of Youtube commenters have said that the video is “weird”, but it’s supposed to be. The song is about pagan rituals (or so I think), so obviously the video reflects that. It’s so enticing because it’s so arcane.

Then there is the light, bright, beautiful synthpop gem Lose It. This is probably as pure, pretty, and pristine as synthpop can get, and Austra have distilled the essence of the genre in this song, and yet we haven’t quite heard synthpop done in such a fresh, clever way before. At least I don’t think so. Just have a listen:

Isn’t that just delightful? It makes me pee my pants. And it makes me pregnant. With twins. The most remarkable thing about this song, I think, is the perfect harmony between Stelmanis and the background singers in the chorus. Together, they create this plaintive, crystal-clear, birdlike song of hope and sorrow. It almost sounds like Enya in a strange way, but a cool, synthpoppy Enya. Delish.

OK, on to our last video. Showing their ability to master a range of synthpop sub-genres, Austra reveal their goth goth side in this video for their single Beat and the Pulse, and boy is it sexy. Be forewarned: I don’t do censorship, so this video is not safe for work! (That means it’s NSFW):

So what did ya think?? In my opinion, This is the difference between pornography and erotica. The models are portrayed in a seductive, tasteful manner, and they exude a mysterious power. It’s not crass and exploitative; it’s subtle and stylish. Besides, listen to the pulsating bassline that suddenly creeps into your ears when the beat kicks in. And, again, that rich texture of harmonies fills out the song and sends chills down one’s spine. This is dark, sinister synthpop at its finest.

Speaking of weird Scandinavian-sounding dance music, compare Austra to Karin Dreijer when Dreijer accepted the award for best dance artist on behalf of her band Fever Ray at this Swedish music awards ceremony:

Kooky! And fabulous. Now that we’ve established that both Austra and Fever Ray are cool, creative bands with a statement to make, it’s time to ask the question: which one is weirder? All that matters is that they are weird, and there’s a rhyme and reason to it, even if the typical Beyonce-glamoured American can’t see past his milquetoast Top 40 music collection. Consider this Youtube commenter’s post about the above Fever Ray video: “Its unfortunate most people cannot understand the statement of the absurdity of award shows, come up, make a stupid speech and say thank you within 20 seconds and walk off stage for the next commercial, absolutely meaningless. If viewers can only see the surface level and think ‘Man that lady is weird, whats with the face?’, they need to start digging deeper past the surface [sic]”. So true. So, so true. I cannot improve upon that observation, except to say that the average American isn’t into the musical creativity of artists like Fever Ray and Austra, because they’re only exposed to the commercially successful acts.

Anyway, I haven’t written about a cool band in a while, so when I discovered Austra I just knew I had to say something about them and spread the word. I entreat you to do the same. Spread the word. As you would your seed. No, just kidding. Sort of. I can’t wait to hear their next album! I’m thinking of writing about new releases by a few other bands who make me want to diddle myself, like Glass Candy and Chromatics, so keep visiting this blog. (Oh, and I’m posting another instalment of the fabulous lady-comic Julie Gentron and the Lady League very soon, so look for that too.) So go out and buy Austra’s debut album Feel It Break—make sure it’s the deluxe version—and support one of Canada’s most talented and interesting musical products of recent times. (The album was released by Domino or Paper Bag—can’t remember which—and it’s on iTunes, of course.)





Top 15 Hot Cartoon Sluts of the ’80s!

1 11 2011

I’ve finally re-discovered this blog post. It’s so amazingly gay and obscure that it made me pregnant. With twins. It totally reminds me of growing up as a child in the ’80s. I remember most of these characters, so it all rings so true. They’re sluts! And proud of it! So they should be. They’re fucking awesome. It’s a rather fortuitous conclusion: the toy and cartoon franchises of the ’80s had a preponderance of male characters, and to create a gender balance they had to include token females here and there, but the obvious implication was, who are those chicks gonna bang? Oh, shit! Everybody else.

Anyway, the post was originally written by somebody called Lahoma00, on the blog DListed, but I was so incensed at what I saw as a glaring omission of intolerable magnitude that I had to modify the post slightly and add a new winner in the #1 position, so actually this list ended up being the top 16 hot cartoon sluts of the ’80s. So, yeah, the new winner was chosen by me and written about by me (as well as the first sentence in the new #2). Oh, and anything in brackets was added by me, too, and I took the liberty of correcting punctuation where necessary. Appréciez, bitches!

#16 Madame Razz (She-Ra: Princess of Power)

Madame Razz always reminded me of Valerie Harper or Madge, the Palmolive lady who told you how well Palmolive cleaned your dishes AND your hands. Razz was that stupid bitch who was always fucking up her spells and talked like an old lady from New York. Here Madame Razz is seen causing disaster, as well as with her lovable companion Broom, who was a homosexual. Madame Razz was a fag-hag!

Image hosted by TinyPic.comImage hosted by TinyPic.com

#15 Lady Jaye (GI Joe: A Real American Hero)

Image hosted by TinyPic.com

Lady Jaye was fucking hot! This bitch could kick your ass with her fists, a gun, or her javelin. In one episode she beat somebody with a handbag! My favorite episode was where she and the Baroness [who competes for the #1 position but got left out because I’m too lazy to add her] got kidnapped; they beat a bunch of robots while Lady Jaye was wearing business casual and Baroness was in a bikini!

Image hosted by TinyPic.com

Here is Lady Jaye with her boyfriend Flint, but it was all a cover because we know she was a dyke. That’s why she was little boys’ favourite, because she was basically a guy herself! She wanted to fuck Cover Girl!

#14 Woolma Lamb (The Get Along Gang)

Image hosted by TinyPic.com

Woolma was the snotty bitch of this group, always acting prissy and coming her hair. Once I was in a green room of a talk show and Joan Collins was there, primping and looking in the mirror. She reminded me of this bitch.

#13 Melodia (Silverhawks)

Melodia was one in a long string of MTV-inspired cartoon characters. All Melodia did was shriek a lot and play really shitty guitar in outer space. But her hair was hot! Glynne Headley would play her in the movie.

#12 LaLa Orange (Rainbow Brite)

Image hosted by TinyPic.com

Look at this slut! She thought she was a fucking French lady with her beret but she’s nothing but a Parisian whore! She was always winking and trying to suck Red Butler’s dick!

#11 Carla (Kidd Video)

Kidd Video was seriously one of the hottest cartoons around: Four kids (including Cousin Oliver from The Brady Bunch) get sucked into a cartoon where they play rock n’ roll and run away from Master Blaster and his psycho cats! Carla was the Apollonia/Sheena Easton/Vanity wannabe. She was so hot because she said was from East L.A. and always wore her t-shirt with the shoulder exposed. I think she was a shitty singer!

#10 Jacqueline Stallone

Image hosted by TinyPic.com

She wasn’t in a cartoon, but look at this bitch! She’s cazy!

#9 Pizzaz (Jem)

Image hosted by TinyPic.com

How can this slut not be on it? Pizzaz was always trying to fuck with Jem’s career, causing destruction and chaos wherever she went. She was especially hot because her birth name was Phyllis Gabor. I loved when this bitch would try to steal Jem’s boyfriend, Eric. [Or was it Rio?] She thought she was so fucking sexy, but she looks like an alligator on crack!

Image hosted by TinyPic.com

#8 Nanny (Muppet Babies)

Image hosted by TinyPic.com

Nanny had the hottest legs in show business! You never saw this slut, but you know that she resembled Polly Holliday or Barbara Billingsley. [Plus, she was constantly competing with Miss Piggy, or “Piggy”, on this slutty cartoon show.]

#7 Brittany (Alvin and the Chipmunks)

Image hosted by TinyPic.com

Brittany was hot because she wore Danskins and acted like a bitch all the time! What few of you sluts realize is that Brittany is single handedly responsible for the creation of Britney Spears! Just look at how Brit Brit was influenced by her.

The only difference was, Brittany was never pregnant white trash!

#6 Crasher (Challenge of the GoBots)

For so many years I thought Crasher was a gay guy. Then I realized he was a she! But it’s a thin line anyway, isn’t it bitches? Anyway, Crasher sort of looks like Pete Burns and has a British accent. She always would laugh hysterically after stepping on people and causing destruction, like she was having an orgasm. She was the first 80s cartoon character into S&M!

Image hosted by TinyPic.com

#5 Cheetara (Thundercats)

Aside from beating people’s asses with her hot staff, Cheetara was a fucking porn star! Look at this picture from the first episode!

You can see her tits! I remember this freaked me out as a kid. It was the same sort of fascination and feeling when you’re doing something you are not supposed to, like looking at a copy of your brother’s (or mother’s) issue of Hustler. I think her tits freaked so many kids out that they became fags! Holy shit, the right wing needs to start blaming Cheetara for gay marriage!

#4 Catra (She-Ra: Princess of Power)

How could we not include this bitch? She was always trying to defeat She-Ra but would always end up in a puddle of water or something. Catra was so hot because, despite being able to turn into a cat herself, she used to get carted around by her cat Clawdeen. The bitch is so self-entitled!

Image hosted by TinyPic.com

When you’d buy the action figure it described her as a “jealous beauty.” A few years ago some friends and I were going to start a band called CATRA: JEALOUS BEAUTY! Our first album was going to be called “Anxiety and Falcon Crest” [sic]. How hot would this whore be on the cover?

Image hosted by TinyPic.com

#3 Evil Lyn (He-Man and the Masters of the Universe)

Image hosted by TinyPic.com

The mother of all bitches! Every little boy was scared of her, unless they were gay in which case they wanted to be her! Evil-Lyn was Skeletor’s bitch but she really ran the roost. She always reminded me of Linda Dano. Look, isn’t the resemblance clear? Actually, Linda Dano sort of looks like Gozar from Ghostbusters.

Evil-Lyn is the only person on our list to be featured on the big screen in form of none other than the extremely scary MEG FOSTER. Meg, of course, is best known for her creepy eyes, Beverly D’Angelo wannabe look and for getting her ass fired from the Cagney and Lacey pilot! She’s so hot in the Masters of the Universe movie because she is a galactic conqueror and at one point kicks Courtney Cox’s ass!

#2 Bianca Dupree (Beverly Hills Teens)

Image hosted by TinyPic.com

Bianca is so evil and prissy, she’s like a teenage cartoon version of Alexis Carrington, from Dynasty. Beverly Hills Teens was a ridiculous cartoon from 1987 about super-rich teens that all hung out at a country club and dated each other. Despite being loaded, they all wore the same fucking clothes everyday! Bianca was the rich bitch of the group and was so hot! She had a dog Fifi and a chauffeur Wilshire that loved her ass but she treated him like shit!

Image hosted by TinyPic.com

Bianca was always scheming to break up supercouple Troy and Lark and get Troy for herself. Seen here is that trifecta of power, along with some irritating short kid.

Image hosted by TinyPic.com

When I first met Michael K, one of the first things we talked about was how hot Bianca was! It bonded us forever. This is for you Michael K—long live Bianca!

#1 Smurfette (The Smurfs)

Holy shit! The choice was clear—Smurfette is #1! OK, so later in the series they introduced a little girl smurf called Sassette and an older, matronly smurf called Nanny Smurf, but until then Smurfette was the run of the town–if she wanted to get laid, she had the entire Smurf Village at her disposal. What a royal queen bitch! Good for her!

What makes Smurfette even more complex as a slut is that Gargamel made her in his stewpot as a decoy for the smurfs, and she originally had black hair, but she became blond when Papa Smurf worked a spell on her that made her into a real smurf, and she gained a certain conscience that allowed her to sympathise with the smurfs and learn to detest her creator. But she was still the only female smurf. Consequently, she wanted to fuck Brainy and Hefty and Dreamy and Clumsy and Grouchy and Jokey. And everybody else. Good for her!

The disgusting thing is that at least two of the three female smurfs (Smurfette and Sassette) were actually created as evil at first by Gargamel, as tools to tempt the male smurfs (whose reproductive apparatus, apparently, remains a mystery). How fucking sexist is that? But Smurfette is still a hot slut because she’s the prissiest, bossiest, baddest bitch in town, and she and Papa Smurf had the will to overcome Gargamel’s evil plot! And that’s why she is #1.

So there you have it: the top 15, er, 16, hot cartoon sluts of the ’80s, by Lahoma00 of DListed (and with help from moi)! Everything pink and pretty and frilly and teased and feathered and hairsprayed and overly made-up and clouded in cloying perfume has been encompassed in these precious female tokens of ’80s cartoon schlock. In a sense, it seems so blatantly sexist that the female characters are covered in feminine paraphernalia, but at the same time it seems kind of progressive for its time because they all tend to be pretty assertive and plucky and powerful, full of agility and ingenuity. As a boy, I always admired them as champions of the underdog. Gloria Steinem once said on this Youtube clip I once watched that women can find power in being sexual. She didn’t actually say that verbatim–I am trying to remember what she said exactly–but she basically acknowledged that women can leverage power through being sexual agents–as opposed to servants. Because, after all, traditionally, women have been sex-servants, no? Should they be? No. That’s the point.

So these hot cartoon sluts are iconoclasts! No, you can’t run in heels, but you can stab a rapist in the eyeball with a good steel stiletto. These girls can run, kick, punch, and look pretty all at the same time! There’s no good reason why they can’t be all of these things at once if they want to be. All they need is a gay make-up artist and a male nanny to take care of the little shit. And a supportive hag-fag when they have to pop one out of the oven. Ain’t a pretty sight. Somebody has to be there to say, “It’s OK”.





Tomorrow’s World

9 10 2011

I have been waiting for this day for four years, yet somehow it feels like just another release date. I guess I’m showing my age. Erasure have released Tomorrow’s World, named after the British 1980s science documentary series. And I have to say, with the help of Frankmusik, the album is awash in smooth, modern dance sensibility. Well, two-thirds of it, at least. The other third is a little bit more anchored in the soul-gospel balladry which places focus on lead singer Andy Bell’s distinctly bold voice. But, then, his voice soars in the dance tunes, too. The strength of the album is in how Andy’s voice–which sounds particularly strong and stable–glides atop the chic dance grooves.

Consider the track “I Lose Myself”, with its hard, deliberate rhythm and rich, unabashed vocals:

If you ask me, it sounds like a well-polished, modern twist on early New Order. But it hasn’t really been done before; it’s a new kind of fierce dance-pop. (By the way, New Order’s lead singer, Bernard Sumner, is releasing an electronic album soon.)

Now consider the more vulnerable sound of “Be With You”, characterized by an irresistibly loping beat and Andy’s longing, soaring voice:

This is the way ballads should sound: originally conceived to be slow, but re-interpreted as a dance track to inject a throbbing energy which only elevates the soulful vocals.

Then there is “A Whole Lotta Love Run Riot”, the ultimate cynical commentary on the vapidity of British club culture in the 2010s:

This song is like “I Lose Myself” in its intense, driving rhythm, but it is a little bit ironic how it criticizes the banality of modern British dance music while co-opting that same style and creating a much more lush, melodic, tightly-structured, tuneful sound–which is the way dance music should sound anyway.

Finally, we arrive at my favourite track, “Fill Us With Fire”. I like this track in particular because of my spiritual bent. (I believe in something greater than myself, but ultimately what matters is how we treat one another. Indeed, for me, that is the purpose of spirituality.) It is a rumination on the woes of humankind and a plea for rationality and self-reflection. At the same time, it doesn’t sound too didactic. It is truly a treat for the ears and the mind:

Something about this song evokes climbing a ladder. As I listen to the verse, then the bridge, and then, finally, the chorus, it feels as if I am ascending into a higher place. It is one of Erasure’s most divinely contemplative compositions, in my opinion. It is just sublime.

So that is the sound of Erasure circa 2011. The production was done by Frankmusik , a highly talented and emerging electronic dance artist. And we know the name-brand sound ofVince Clarke, a skilled and timeless “tone-smith” who creates the instrumental soundscape of Erasure, not to mention his bandmate Andy Bell, a prominent songwriter and vocalist. I cannot describe to you the amazing talent produced by Mute, which includes artists like Moby and Goldfrapp. Their skils combined, these individuals should make you shit tears of joy. Honestly.





My Guiltiest Pleasure

30 08 2011

It might just be what you expected, you creep, hoarding innumerable dusky italo gems yourself inside the hidden niches of your deep, dark, depraved mind. Yes, you have stolen my thoughts. These melodic, minimalist dance anthems were made for us to relish in unparalleled ecstasy, you knowing whore. The embarrassing relic of which I speak is the impeccable 1983 italo-disco classic “Hypnotic Tango”, by the band My Mine, from Perugia, Italy. (I was playing with my Barbie Dolls and watching Cyndi Lauper dance barefoot on MTV at the time.) Is it just me, or is the chorus absolutely infectious? I will not apologise for adorning each Youtube video of the song I can find with tokens of my adoration. Neither should you. It seems as though everybody who likes this stuff is either Latin American or Eastern European. Sigh. The trials of being cosmopolitan.

Please enjoy the comical version first, if simply to quench your thirst for the mockery of that which you yourself secretly desire:


And now you can unfetter that old, faggish heart of yours, crushed as it is into a hard, pressure-cooked stone by aeons of ugly homophobia, to savour the original version as it was meant to be savoured: with a nice lemon liqueur and a lonely, neglected turntable:

Now that you are smeared in a thick coat of shame, let us continue. What we will now do is re-create the same horrific and beautiful effect, bangs, mousse, and shoulder-pads intact, in a live video featuring strange clowns and not-so-naïve New Romantic hooligans cavorting in a sea of crazed faces. It’s so Almodovar it’s silly:

Ah. Exactly. You are mesmerized. Now that you have slavered over the gorgeous gem that is “Hypnotic Tango”, let me assault you with a live version of the song in which you can bury your teeth, eyes, and ears. Yum, yum. This is pure, unabashed space-disco, ladies, and he’s dancing for you and the gents:

Ah. Yes. All that messy tomfoolery. How did we lose it? How did we abandon eccentricity? Perhaps it was a backlash against Thatcher and Reagan, who were in power at the time. Perhaps conservatives antagonised the already-flourishing music and fashion movement of the late ’70s and early ’80s, causing it to blossom into something more carnivalesque than we could ever imagine in our wildest acid trip. O, the ebb and flow of weirdness. For some reason, while conservatives held power in both Britain and America, there was a strict counter-culture that said the exact opposite in fashion, make-up, hair, and dance beat. Eventually these may have blurred together through commercialism, but I think it originated in the norm versus punk and new wave culture.

And now hipsters are reinventing italo-disco like it’s the shit—and they should, because it is. That is why we have bad-ass record labels like Italians Do It Better and fly bands like Glass Candy, Desire, Chromatics, and Cosmetics—to pick up where seminal artists like Giorgio Moroder left off and to carry on the legacy of elegant cosmic disco tunes, but with a fresh, modern, psychedelic twist. Just listen to how forward-sounding the synthesised bassline of “Hypnotic Tango” is; it totally presages the frenetic trance sound of the late 1990s—and now it takes on a loping, somewhat lustier shape in the early 2010s indie disco scene, ready to leap in leopard skin on to the dancefloor.

The genius of the nu disco artists is that they re-marry dance beats with melody, meaningful lyrics, and live band performance while creating a fresh new sonic texture using innovative technology. The result is that you can dance to a cool, modern song on the dancefloor and sing to it at the same time without having to be on drugs. Thank goodness we have little gems like “Hypnotic Tango” to inspire a generation bred on lacklustre brain-garbage.





Drag Queens and Christian Divas

13 08 2011

I just realized something the other day, and it strikes me as more uncanny the more it sinks in. Jan Crouch looks like Divine. Seriously. Scarily like Divine. The wigs, the crazy make-up, the charismatic, larger-than-life diva persona, the whole cosmetic case. But Jan Crouch is a televangelist who co-hosts the Christian program Praise the Lord on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, and Divine (who died in 1988) was a drag queen, singer, and actor who starred in John Waters films like Pink Flamingoes, Female Trouble, Polyester, and Hairspray and released a series of Hi-NRG dance hits like I’m So Beautiful, Walk Like a Man, and Native Love which have become cult classics in the gay and electronic music communities. How can a televangelist look so much like a drag queen? What in the world is the common denominator?

Above is a picture of Jan Crouch, and below, a picture of Divine.

I don’t know about you, but I sense a . . . ahem . . . celestial theme going on with both of these scrumptious, fragrant, poodle-like ladies. Maybe Jan Crouch and Divine were friends at some point and exchanged fashion tips. Maybe they read the little red words of Jesus in the same NIV Bible together, or went to drag shows together. Maybe they performed together, singing contemporary Christian hits or inspirational hymns, or maybe Hi-NRG disco tracks produced by Stock, Aitken, and Waterman (SAW). Or maybe they shared husbands in a polyamorous relationship. I like to think that maybe they became bosom buddies getting a boob job at the same boob job clinic. But I don’t know about that. I think Divine’s boobies were fake. Actually, come to think of it, I think Jan Crouch’s boobies are fake too. I guess that’s another thing they have in common.

To get an idea of what I’m talking about, watch this video clip of Jan Crouch (I couldn’t find a serious video of her; it’s not my fault they’re all parodies):

…and now, children, feast your eyes upon this hot, throbbing, strangely ethereal-sounding homage to Snow White (a song and video I salivate over constantly, handkerchief in hand) by the inimitable queen of early Hi-NRG herself, Divine:

Why do Jan Crouch and Divine want to share mascara wands so much? Maybe that last song sums it up in a nutshell. They’re both unabashedly, flagrantly beautiful. As goes the cliché: the higher the hair, the closer to heaven. Maybe they used to go to clubs in, like, Chelsea or the Castro and sing Christian hymns to a 4/4 dance beat backing track or something. Gay men *get* crazy, big-haired, hymn-clutching, oratorical Christian women—maybe because a lot of gay men were raised by these big ol’ Christian divas and found out, hey, they actually love me and don’t think I’m going to hell!

I think sometimes we take the Christian versus homo thing a bit too seriously, especially when it comes to drag queens and Christian divas and their unexpectedly beautiful, synchronistic relationships with one another. Often, I think, Christian divas are just being mouthpieces for their stodgy husbands while deep down inside they actually like homos. A lot. And for them this is a matter of sloughing off the old, putrid sludge of Biblical patriarchy, becoming their own woman, and honouring what they truly think and feel inside. Think of Tammy Faye Messner, who before she died actually had a talk show with a gay co-host and said in an interview she supported the gay community. I mean, Tammy Faye even appeared in gay pride marches with Lady Bunny and Bruce Vilanch. Yeah! I know! The old PTL televangelist became a fag-hag! She certainly didn’t do so because her husband or the Bible told her to do so; more likely, she did so because she identified with the community as a human with similar thoughts, needs, and emotions. (Wait. Tammy Fay Messner looks just like Divine too. Holy shit. It’s a movement.)

Christian divas and homos both love performance and caricature, over-the-top imagery, bombastic music, and blowing people’s minds out of the water with their big, overly–made–up, screaming, crying faces. It’s cathartic, just like praying to God, or the Madonna (in multiple senses—the mother of Christ, the singer, and the Goddess), so it’s inevitable that the one should identify with the other. Sadly, a lot of Christian divas and drag queens put on their look because they don’t like the way they look without it. In both we see a bittersweet mixture of sorrow and ecstasy, the tragedy which secretly haunts the clown.

Well, I think I may have just answered my own question.

All of that aside though, I’ll tell you what—both of these girls have amazing taste! I wish I had the balls—and tits—to go on T.V. and do movies looking like that. I wouldn’t want either of them to change a thing. Not a thing. Seriously. And not simply because I think I would be turned to stone if I saw one of them rising from their tomb, waking  up in the morning, getting off the toilet, or hopping out of the shower to go to Bible class or drag rehearsal. Religion and Bible crap aside, and looking just at their purely human essence, I think both drag queens and Christian divas offer a vivid, Technicolor glimpse at what sort of magical, otherworldly creatures we all secretly want to embody, and can if we’ll just undo the straps, put the foot to the pedal, and say, “What the fuck?”





Swedish Electro-pop Pixie Robyn

8 04 2011

I’m constantly searching for the ultimate pop diva–one who combines vocals, songwriting skills, dance moves, fashion, and a delicious sonic soundscape into a single succulent package. I don’t want the typical American top 40 R&B crooner with whiney, annoyingly overwrought vocals–I want an edgy, in-your-face dance-pop diva who knows how to sing to an actual melody. Soul-singing is not supposed to sound incoherent–it is supposed to pluck at the heartstrings. And I like Kylie Minogue, but, to be honest, is she a good songwriter? With this in mind, I think I may have found the diva I am looking for. She is singer and songwriter Robyn, the peroxide-blond pixie from Stockholm, Sweden. I like some of the other larger-than-life icons, but Robyn really kicks you in the face with her plucky synthpop fierceness. She can sing, dance, and express herself with abandon. And, with the occasional exception, her style is a staunch disavowal of watered-down U.S. R&B; it remains stalwartly devoted to the European electronic dance tradition–the most savvy, metamorphic, and creative genre in pop music.

For a taste of Robyn’s bold, bedazzling pop-gems, consider the following video for her song Dancing on My Own:

Wow. I love everything about this video. I love the hot, steamy, glowing-red nightclub shots, the off-shoulder top, the funky, cropped blond hair, the chain earring that’s attached to her top, and the fuck-you, martial arts dance moves. I wouldn’t want to cross her path in a dark alley. I think there’s something about strong, independent women that gay men appreciate; I think it might be the tenacity in the face of social obstacles. They can identify with it. And, even though visibly she’s Swedish to the bone, she sounds almost like a black woman from Detroit. And there is something about her that uncannily reminds me of Cyndi Lauper, who is probably the queen of punch-you-in-the-nutsack synthpop.

Now, play close attention. Perhaps my favourite dance move in the video is at 1:07. I could do that all day long, in the shower, on the street, in the office. Don’t care. I could sway my hips from side to side like that all day long.

The next video I want to share with you is for her song Hang with Me:

I love the melody combined with the four-to-the-floor beat and sweet, icy synthesizers. And I love the tour-bus footage. It makes me feel as though I am witnessing the star’s day-to-day adventures first-hand, as though I am playing a personal part in the life of a burgeoning pop princess, one that is remarkably fun and down-to-earth. And I love the footage of the bus driving down the motorway in Britain (you can see the traffic sign to London in the video). It reminds me of my vacation in Britain in 2003, when I drove out of the sad, decrepit stone-and-concrete maze of London and into the smooth, green, rolling countryside toward some ancient monument, a low, giant sun glowing through the polluted sky.

The next-to-last video is for her song Indestructible. It is very sexy and artistic, full of longing, fleshly desire and fluid-tube body-suits:

This is a poignant video. Watching it, one is encouraged to love—to love urgently—as though one has never loved before, despite past heartbreaks. That is hard to do. And yet, it tells us that we should keep trying, and never grow bitter. In essence, it tells one to maintain a sense of hope, because nobody likes a frowning middle-aged matron with self-obsessed wrinkles on her brow. Think about it. Who wants to turn into some bitter, crusty old crab-woman? (Although, I must admit, I would simply love to portray Miss Havisham in a stage production of Great Expectations.)

Finally, I would like to share with you the video for the same song, but this time the artist is performing at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Concert, hosted by bug-eyed beauty Anne Hathaway:

Wow! Inimitable dance moves. Let me bring your attention to the moment at 1:39, where she perfectly synchronises with the beat. Bam! This girl loves it. And there are rock concerts for the Norwegian Nobel Committee! A committee which awards prizes to those who have contributed to the advancement of peace! They have electronic pop artists performing for them, for goodness’ sake! Isn’t that a most beautifully harmonious collaboration of agendas? I want to move to Oslo or Stockholm now.

If you like high-end, high-purpose electro-pop, visit the official Robyn Web site. I am going to do that now.





Support Gay Youth! And Love!

16 12 2010

For me, the musical highlight of the year is the recent re-release of Erasure‘s “A Little Respect“, not only because the song is sublime musically, but also because every purchase of this track (on iTunes) is a donation to an organization devoted to the protection of rejected youth. This release is a re-recording of the original 1988 soul-pop anthem; this time around, though, it features the choir of the Hetrick-Martin Institute, a New York non-profit foundation dedicated to the nurturance and uplifting of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning youth. The Hetrick-Martin Institute is also the home of Harvey Milk High School, a high-school in Manhattan named after the gay San Francisco politician who was assassinated, and designed specifically for youth who have been rejected by their families because of which sex they are attracted to.

The Hetrick-Martin session of “A Little Respect” was motivated largely by the recent spate of gay teenage suicides attributed to bullying in the United States. The suicides have affected multiple races and genders–victims have been black and white, female and male. And, certainly, they have affected the poor as well, since so many distraught and runaway urban youth have few financial resources to depend on. And who cares whether they are gay? Straight people are oppressed for supposedly being gay, too. Consequently, the bullying epidemic has affected almost every class of society within the United States. Shouldn’t everybody be concerned?

The Huffington Post, an aggregated blog based in the United States, posted the original video for this re-recording, but it’s already on YouTube. I adore Andy Bell’s fluorescent make-up:


The song is unnerving. With its kaleidoscopic tapestry of guitar strings, adroit, gradual melodies, insistent bass-drums, and poignant, yearning lyrics, it is truly a hymn to the woes of the inner self, and the turmoil that lurks within. All of this is supplemented by a brand-new arrangement of elegant, sweeping synthesisers courtesy of veteran synthpop genius Vince Clarke, who forms a part of the band. (It does not hurt that the Hetrick-Martin choir assists lead vocalist Andy Bell in building a soul-based vocal ensemble.) Ultimately, it is a message of love and compassion. It always has been about love and compassion, hasn’t it?  That selflessly unfamiliar yet resounding source of pleasure and knowledge one has in the wellness of others? And not just love toward kin, but also love toward the alien. That kind of love is most constructive, most forgiving, most pure.

So while we should fight tenaciously for equality, we should also shed love and compassion on those we deem our “enemies”. Indeed, rather than describe them as “enemies”, we might try to describe them as neophytes to the art of liberalism. That is more diplomatic. This doesn’t mean they don’t do wrong–it only means that we should love them nonetheless, simply because love is good for people, and it makes them better. That is a hard feat to perform. But isn’t it good for all of us in the end?

But that is another blog entry.

Before I bore you to death–dance music! Andy Bell (the lead singer of Erasure) has been quite active in his solo career. Following up with his shamelessly beat-laden (and, oh, I  love it) album Non-Stop, Bell has released a double CD featuring the three singles “Running Out”, “Will You Be There”, and “Non-Stop”, off the same album. Those who adore the quasi-italo-disco sound of Vega or Neon Indian will most likely quiver with delight over this release, given the “Vega Italo Dub Mix” of “Running Out”, which was released under Bell’s club-friendly pseudonym “Mimó”. So we have a very active Andy Bell who enjoys the nightlife. So he should. I do.

And if that weren’t enough, Erasure are planning to release an all-analogue album in 2010. Don’t quote me on that. I remember it from the fan-page discussion threads, but the fan-site doesn’t have a search engine, so I can’t confirm. All I remember is hearing Vince Clarke saying that it would consist of a home-grown, original, analogue synthesiser sound, which is fantastic, since I’m so tired of that cheap, shitty, sampled digital crap which most dance/pop/rap artists use nowadays.

To top things off, these exponents of the pro-gay youth movement are planning to tour the British forests next year. Yes. That’s right. As part of the British Forestry Commission’s annual Live Music series (Britain still has forests, apparently, and its Forestry Commission entertains cutting-edge synthpop acts like Goldfrapp) Erasure will be playing their famed hits in places like Thetford Forest, near Brandon, in Suffolk. (The irony.) I didn’t think Britain had any more forests–I thought they were all mowed down in the Iron Age. I suppose they re-grow them where they seem to be dwindling. Being from Seattle, I am surrounded by a swathe of green, wet, oceanic moss-forests, so it seems odd to me. Well, they visited Seattle in 2007 on their “Light at the End of the World” tour, so let’s hope that they can trudge their way through the moss-forests for a 2011, or, more likely, 2012 tour. If one is lucky enough to live in Britain, one can buy Erasure Forest Tour tickets here.

Basically, love gay people, and be jealous of puny British forests for the tolerant people that inhabit them.

Over and out.