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Archive for the ‘Replay’ Category

Replay: Kanye and Jay-Z’s “No Church in the Wild”

In music videos, Replay on June 1, 2012 at 10:56 am

Sarah T.

From the first lingering close-ups of rebels in “No Church in the Wild,” it’s clear that Jay-Z and Kanye are on the revolutionaries’ side. Even when handkerchiefs cover the protestors’ noses and mouths, we see rage, suffering, and wariness pass through their eyes. They appear at once vulnerable— shirtless, dressed in street clothes—and heroic as they push against police lines and extend their arms out wide and slightly back, puffing their chests forward. That last pose is the universal sign for “Come at me.” The police do.

The police are the faceless apparatus of the state, their humanity buried beneath helmets and shields. They bear high-tech weapons. Their synchronized violence works like a machine. By contrast, the rebels’ tactics are chaotic—a police car on fire pushed through the barricades, a boot kicking against a hard plastic shield. The police have controlled power, which they use to control others. The rebels use their power to create disorder. Their anger burns. Everyone in the video is a man.

But what’s a revolution without specifics? That’s a real question, not a snarky rhetorical move. Without identifying details, it’s impossible to know whether “No Church” means to evoke Occupy Wall Street or Arab Spring or other recent uprisings. (The fact that the video was filmed in Prague lends it tones of the Velvet Revolution as well, although of course that revolution was nonviolent.)

Perhaps the scenes in the video are meant to stand for all revolutions.  On principle, that’s fine — I don’t have a problem with metaphors. But I do have a problem with borrowing images that conjure up heroism and radical social movements without earning the right to them. For example: those Walt Whitman commercials make me tear up, because like many people in the target demographic I’m a sucker for that expansive, youthful, hopeful, scrappy, poetic version of America. So the ads have the effect they’re supposed to have on me. But at the same time, I know that Levi’s is making a cheap move with those commercials. They’re lifting beauty and poetry to sell me some jeans.

What this video does isn’t quite so crass, because I believe that while Jay-Z and Kanye obviously have commercial agendas they’re also concerned about art. I don’t think Levi’s cares about art one way or the other as long as I plunk down some dollars for pair of dark wash. But I do think the video is lifting revolution to sell me on Watch the Throne.

The irony of which is, I’m already sold. “No Church” is an amazing song. But it’s about the dark side of opulence, as the trailer for The Great Gatsby showed to great effect. If the video had gone more for class warfare and less for de-contextualized uprisings, it would have been a perfect match between song and story. Lyrically,  Jay-Z and Kanye have both acknowledged the contrast between their current decadent lifestyles and the realities of poverty in America. How cool would it be to see a video that explored those tensions? As is, “No Church” gave me some goosebumps — but I don’t think the video deserved them.

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For more on hip-hop in general and Kanye in particular, check out Melissa’s “My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Affair with Misogyny, Hip Hop, and Post-Feminism.”

Replay: Jack White, “Love Interruption”

In misogyny, music videos, Replay, violence on May 17, 2012 at 8:22 am

Sarah S.

Head vs. Heart. Brain vs. Body. These are the battles that consume Jack White’s newest single “Love Interruption” off his first fully solo album, Blunderbuss.

White and his co-vocalist, Ruby Amanfu, toy with the lyrics of romance as they repeatedly purr, “I want love to…,” leading listeners  down the path of passion. But they’re not the kinds whose passion fits nicely into socially-acceptable boxes as they “want love to /roll me over slowly / stick a knife inside me, / and twist it all around” or “split my mouth right open and / cover up my ears / and never let me hear a sound.” They want a love that consumes everything, violently. People often compare love and passion to fire but users of that metaphor conveniently forget that fire, while beautiful, burns and destroys.

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Replay: “Call Me Maybe,” Carly Rae Jepsen

In girl culture, music videos, Replay on May 9, 2012 at 4:13 pm

What do you think of when you think about Canada? Maple syrup? Scott Pilgrim? A moose? Universal health care? A Place To Which One Might Abscond Should the U.S. Magnify Its Aura of Impending Doom?

From here on out, perhaps the irresistible bubblegum chords of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” will come to mind too. The  singer-songwriter hails from British Columbia and rose to fame on Canadian Idol. The U.S. has embraced her pop export with open arms, partly because “Call Me Maybe” is an earworm of a single, impossible to shake, and partly because of her music video’s campy charm. The video both captures the breathless excitement of a newborn crush and winkingly acknowledges that swooning over a hot somebody you know nothing about is a little ridiculous — which doesn’t make it any less fun. Read on as Girls Like Giants tries to peg down Jepsen’s number.

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Replay: “Turn Me On,” David Guetta Ft. Nicki Minaj

In hip hop, music videos, Replay on May 1, 2012 at 8:09 am

Nicki Minaj never ceases to amaze and intrigue the GLG ladies, and this video is no exception. David Guetta’s “Turn Me On” plays off the Frankenstein story, with Guetta as Dr. Frankenstein and Nicki Minaj and others as the Monster, or in this case doll-like creations. Nicki Minaj becomes Barbie here, as she is literally a doll–flesh built over complex mechanics–who runs out into the night and away from Guetta’s character.

Read on for some thoughts on “Turn Me On.” And we would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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Replay: Drake’s HYFR featuring Lil’ Wayne

In music videos, Replay on April 11, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Sarah T.

Jews and rapping aren’t necessarily the first pairing that comes to mind. But Drake’s new music video “HYFR,” featuring Lil’ Wayne, is proof positive that the two go together like matzoh balls and soup or wine and Passover.

Let’s start with how happy Drake looks. Mazel tov, friend! He’s so glad to be hoisted on a chair during Hava Nagila and have his best friend in attendance wearing a panda mask.  As Rembert Browne at Grantland points out, Drake has never seemed as relaxed as he does in this video, which honors his multicultural heritage and both Jewish and hip-hop cultures. He seems truly comfortable with himself, and I think that has to do not just with celebrating his background but also with coming out as an honest-to-goodness loveable dork of a rapper.

Hip-hop’s masculinity imperative is a straightjacket for artists who have range beyond guns-drugs-and-girls. It’s never been a great fit for Drake, even with his lady’s man soft sell on toughness: his voice is a bit nasal, his expressions tend toward puppyish even when he’s trying to look badass, and of course he’s also Jimmy from Degrassi, which makes him fun but not very imposing. This video is all about Drake embracing his own dorkiness, from the goofy premise to that shot of him happily chatting a pal’s ear off to his owl sweater to that amazing picture-cake to his open-mouthed beaming as he jumps around with his arm slung around various buddies.

I’m actually getting kind of emotional writing about this, because the video is hilarious but it’s also kind of a big deal, what Drake’s doing. He’s confident enough about himself and his acceptance in the hip-hop community that he doesn’t need to front; he can own this bar mitzvah. And it’s also important that his hip-hop friends—Lil’ Wayne, DJ Khaled, Trey Songz–are in attendance, supporting him and celebrating his Jewish heritage.  Historically there’s been an undercurrent of anti-Semitism in a lot of celebrated hip-hop—even my beloved Jay-Z has tossed off some problematic lines about Jewish folk. So it means a lot that Drake made this video, and that the hip-hop community turned out for it.

Also, little Drake at his first bar mitzvah is ridiculously adorable.

What are your thoughts on Drizzy’s time-honored celebration of his transition from Boy to Man? Let us know in the comments.

This post is part of a new weekly column, “Replay,” where we respond to music videos. Sometimes they’ll be new, sometimes they’ll be old, and sometimes they will just be ones we love. Drop us a line at girlslikegiants@gmail.com if you have a music video you think we should feature here.

Previously: Azealia Banks’ awesome first video “L8R.”

Replay: Azealia Banks Will See You “L8R”

In gender, music videos, race, Replay on April 4, 2012 at 9:03 am

If you’re not already familiar with Azealia Banks, you will be soon. The rising hip-hop star has got it all: charisma, talent, quick wit, quick rhymes, and a killer name for her upcoming debut album, due out in September: Broke With Expensive Taste.

“But where did my new best friend Azealia come from?” you may be asking yourself at this very moment. “Yea, but from whence does this Lady of the Song arise, like Venus from her shell of ore?” asks your other friend who thinks he is Shakespeare, but he’s not. Your friend is weird but he means well and you are a treasure. So we’ll answer both of you with today’s music video pick, “L8R”  — a demo Banks released way back in 2010 to help draw record labels’ attention.

Sarah T.
First, let’s talk about this barbecue. I want to go to there! And I’m a vegetarian. I think Banks was doing something smart with the whole grilling meat = steamy = sexy but also = Banks in a position that’s traditionally occupied by men. At least in pop culture representations, it’s almost always men who are working the BBQ grill. Similarly, as a rapper, Banks is a woman working in a pretty masculinist field. In both cases, she looks completely in control and capable and also super-appealing. And like she’s having a grand old time.

I really enjoy the sense of playfulness in this video. There are so many fun little details — the guy who keeps the card on his lips while Banks is rapping after a fast-forward game of kiss’n’blow, the way she gets tossed into the pool and completely rolls with it, smiling and swimming and rapping underwater. The light-hearted visuals make for good contrast with her lyrical boasting, which includes the following claims: Read the rest of this entry »

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