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The All The Lovers clip is here, and it is very satisfying, if not the genre defining moment we had all hoped for. In a sense there’s not much too it that the various ‘making-of’ pics hadn’t already revealed – Kylie looking tarted up atop a mountain of underwear-clad LA hopefuls, making out in an appropriately sanitised manner. But in contrast to the usually wilfully ridiculous imagery of most vids these days, this one’s pleasingly ‘on message’, with its casting of K as a modern day Aphrodite seducing the aforementioned LA actors into their sanitised orgy. This I like, particularly in the wonderfully celebratory final moments.
But haven’t we seen these heaving piles (hmm, that sounds iffy) of young people before? Hasn’t there been some kind of soccer ad, or Nike ad, that’s done this already? Or is it this I’m thinking of? Anyway, that’s an aside. My biggest criticism would be that, visually at least, it feels a bit like some kind of big budget Bravia ad. Something about the light? Some might call it soulless, but instead I’ll choose to see it as ‘crisp’. Otherwise I think it’s pretty great, and a wonderfully non- age appropriate direction for her to be treading after the rather cautious X era imagery. Good on her for being blasted in fake tan, airbrushed to death and having the courage to shake it with a bunch of desperate 20-something actors. I think it’s her best clip since Slow.
Is this pop? Or fripper[ous]? No. But what started as garden-variety homophobia has descended into some beautiful farce. The more this man talks the funner it gets. While initially Jason Akermanis‘ argument as to why gay men in the AFL should stay in the closet revolved around their own well-being, the potential disruption to team morale an outing might cause, and the rather strange suggestion that the AFL need not strive to be role models. But in subsequent interviews the emphasis seems to be on one thing and one thing only. That male footballers are naked together much of the time. And that they enjoy special things like slapping each other on the arse and ‘just having a bit of fun’. And if there were to be gay men in their midst, these activities might start to seem a little bit gay. Core argument: to allow football to remain homoerotic, gay men should stay in the closet. Wow.
‘When you’re slapping blokes on the bum and just having a bit of fun, what would that do to a man in there when you actually work out, ‘Oh wait a second, wait a second. I don’t know if I can handle that guy’
Jason Akermanis, The Age.
I’m reluctant to slag this off, because a) I think Xtina has done some really good stuff (albeit mostly in the Stripped period) and b) it’s too easy in the era of Lady GaGa to assume that those who’ve come before her are now stealing her moves. That might be partly true, but the reality is more reciprocal, and I’m sure Xtina has also in a sense paved the way for GaGa (just as Kylie has — there I said it).
But enough moderation. Not Myself Tonight is pretty shit. It’s in no way a memorable song — certainly not a lead single — and I find its premise a little lame. In that it fits too well with Xtina’s new role as a wholesome mother who’s still a little diiirtttty underneath. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (and it’s probably quite balanced and so forth), but for some reason I get the sense that she presses the ‘conservative’ button between albums, and then presses the ‘skank’ button to crank up the pre-release hype, which is perhaps a little cynical.
And the clip is limp. It reminds me of various Janet Jackson vids which, if you take them at face value, are hyper-sexual, but if you look at them from another angle, they’re extremely cold, controlled and non-sexual. From this I get a similar sense of her going through the motions. Who knows, maybe before The Fame Monster I would have thought differently. I think GaGa has certainly pushed the boundaries in the sense that, even within her context of high artifice, there’s a really raw sexuality that comes through. Anyway, tangent. And, as a final snide comment, the Express Yourself references simply reinforce that, at this point in her career [bring on grand concluding statement] Xtina’s not leading, but following.
I was hoping to get my shit together before the Aphrodite juggernaut kicked in, so I could have something nuanced to say. But Kylie beat me to the punch. And All the Lovers is so great, I need to blurt out how it’s *sob* [reaches for tissues], making me feel… which is very good indeed. Such a simple, perfect song. Lovely, delicate sentiment that feels more real than all the “freaky-mode/boombox” talk of X. Just a simple statement about how scary love is. And the spoken word bit inexplicably makes me teary. So yay for the world. And, as for the business end of things, everything seems to be building up nicely. There seems to be actual momentum this time, unlike the clunky start to the X era. Not sure if Parlophone have got their shit together, or whether it’s just the power of a genuinely good song. But this certainly feels like the most effortless Kylie album since Fever.
OK, so I didn’t enjoy GaGa. This is either because my stadium pop tour expectations are high, as a function of my intelligence and evolved aesthetics, or because I am now old. Old things first: it was just too loud. So loud that a) my eyes were uncontrollably blinking to the rhythm, b) the sound horribly distorted into a deafening scream, and c) I was indeed somewhat deaf after the show, and well into the next morning. Does it make me old to want my hearing? Possibly, but not necessarily erroneously.
It wasn’t just my extreme age dulling my enjoyment. Basically, it wasn’t a great show. Or, rather, it wasn’t a show great enough to match the truly great things GaGa is doing in every other sphere – her clips, visual imagery, appearances etc. Because the production was merely mediocre, everything seemed slightly duller than one would expect: her costumes weren’t nearly as interesting or avant garde as her award show costumery, the imagery seemed timid compared to her clips and there was the distinct scent of mediocre American pop stadium tour hanging in the air – or maybe that had seeped into the walls after Britney let off her giant mediocre stink bomb a few months back.
It wasn’t so much that GaGa was mediocre, but the production surrounding her was cheap and clunky. Rather than seamless costume changes, curtains were dropped between sets. The stage seemed straight out of Dracula’s theatre restaurant. The dance troupe veered awfully close to Britney stumbling around the stage. There were pyrotechnics. And oh so many guitars. Annoyingly, what made this mediocrity even more obvious were the flashes of genius scattered throughout – mostly in the pre-recorded GaGa imagery – that teased you with how the show could have been. Stark (to use my favourite pop word), adventurous, and musically aligned to dance rather than Jacko’s big-haired guitar drones (who seemed to have been cloned and released on stage, in a slightly dazed manner). Basically I wanted a show put together by Haus of GaGa but what I got was a show put together by (I assume) merely average touring veterans.
What I should keep in mind though is that even while the Monster Ball Tour was being put together, GaGa was evolving at a fast pace. I just don’t think the scope of the show, as it was conceived at that point in time, could handle how awesome, and artistically adventurous, she’s gone on to become. In future she needs to put Haus of GaGa in charge of everything, and conjure the anal perfectionism of Kylie’s creative team. That would then create the perfect arena spectacular.
Gabriella Cilmi has blindsided me with this. I sort of liked Sweet Like Me until it was played to death, and until I got the vaguest sense that she was just a little bit annoying. But On a Mission has really grown on me. I think musically it’s a backward step, but the very fact it sounds so regressive makes it fun.
The bizarre thing is that with the first album Cilmi had instantly captured the kind of international sound that most Australian artists strive for. But with this (not having heard the album), it sounds so Australian, in the S2S vein — polished but banal. And so trashy. I think she deserves some credit for presenting just a little bit of Chapel Street to the world…