Willow Smith: Nine Years Old and Amazing

I’m sure this has been widely seen by now, but I can’t get over it. She is nine years old and doing it better than most adult pop stars. “Whip My Hair” Willow Smith (daughter of Will, of course) is one solid music video. There’s been some buzz going around on whether or not this can be considered “child labor” or “not having a childhood,” but as Willow says in her own lyrics – “We ain’t doin’ nothin wrong, so don’t tell me nothin’, I’m just tryin’ to have fun.” So listen to her. Cuz that’s exactly what this video and song encapsulate, and nothing more. Well, also, there’s the immense talent.

Sleigh Bells’ “Infinity Guitars” Video: Bad Ass-ness Visualized

If you hadn’t heard of the noisy but catchy lo-fi band Sleigh Bells before, you probably have now between the MTV coverage and the ever-dreaded indie-rock-band-goes-to-car-ads Honda commercial. I’m not sure why, but this is almost exactly how I imagined the music video to be for the track “Infinity Guitars.” Whenever I listened to it I had this perpetual image of frontwoman Alexis Krauss strutting down a street like a bad ass during her lip-sync. And then what do you do with the other half of the Sleigh Bells equation – guitarist (formerly of Poison the Well) Derek E. Miller? Have him strut too, of course – except while playing the distinctive guitar riffs.

The cheerleaders sidenote may seem random, but not if you’ve listened to the rest of the debut album, Treats. The semi-theme of the collection denotes some kind of high school voice, point of view, or commentary. Almost like a fiery rage that is angsty but also mocks teenage angst at the same time – with Krauss and Miller bringing the “cool kid” vibe, the kind of kids who didn’t need backpacks and nonchalantly swung their books around and skipped class.

I may be biased because it came out close to what I had hoped for, but I would say that the new Sleigh Bells video delivers – even if it’s a short but sweet experience (as most of their tracks are, anyway). While the live performances may not impress yet (another story altogether), let’s hope the rest of their music video career does.

Tweet-Sized Thoughts on Media-Related Things: p1

In honor of my recent inability to write anything of length, I felt I had to post something for my own sake. So I think I will take a cue from my friend Britt Julious and her Sunday column idea…Though with this blog, it will just be a collection of my recent tweets on Twitter that happen to be media-related. (Note: Hopefully, on another day, some of these tweet-sized bites will grow into essays or articles.)

First impressions of a commercial for Sex and the City 2.

‘Sex and the City 2’ looks like a hackneyed, slightly racist mess. #SATC 8:44 PM May 6th

Update: Solange is still cooler than you, even while singing on one of those LSD-induced kids’ shows.

Dear @solangeknowles: Will you please make a full-length song of this Yo Gabba Gabba! thing? It’s damn catchy. http://bit.ly/cHDOR6 3:45 PM May 8th

A film I revisited and found it’s still one of my all-time favorites: Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas.

“I walked around for months talking to you. Now I don’t know what to say. It was easier when I just imagined you.” Damn good film, Paris, TX 5:31 PM May 8th

Betty White hosting SNL Mother’s Day Episode. I basically live-tweeted the Betty White-hosted SNL episode…along with dozens of my friends. In a nutshell? It was glorious. Undoubtedly one of the best episodes SNL has had in a lonnnnnnng time. Because of Betty White AND the fact that they brought back a lot of the former female favorites for the Mother’s Day episode. They have to know that they can’t really make it any better than that ever again…But we’ll see with the Alec Baldwin episode tonight. (Which, in the promos for, they’ve already made fun of themselves and their one-time success with Betty White.) Key tweets include…

Betty White on #SNL! Awesome already. Just to hear her say, ‘Jay-Z is here!’ 10:40 PM May 8th

NPR ladies!! Muffin!! Betty White!! #SNL 10:49 PM May 8th

TINA!!!! #SNL 11:00 PM May 8th

Jay-Z medley!!! This is the best #SNL episode ever. 11:12 PM May 8th

Omg. Maya’s Whitney impression is always gold. #SNL 11:21 PM May 8th

Cannes Film Festival 2010 starts; French New Wave pioneer Jean-Luc Godard’s new film Socialisme.

The trailers for #Godard‘s new #film just speed up the whole movie in its entirety, instead of highlighting scenes http://bit.ly/9fSymX 10:27 AM May 10th

RT: Racialicious explores Lady Gaga and white privilege.

Great read, fascinating. RT @britticisms Racialicious on how Lady Gaga’s white privilege makes her transgressive: http://bit.ly/gagawoc 2:35 PM May 10th

RT: Salon.com on the 90s MTV show Daria finally being released on DVD.

SalonMedia Remember the old MTV? “Daria” comes out on DVD http://bit.ly/a2ruwh 8:57 AM May 12th

“‘Daria’ could have only happened at that time, during that strange, transitional period after the grunge and gangsta rap of the early ’90s” 9:11 AM May 12th

RT: A friend lets me know about a development in the Polanski case.

DrMcButtcheeks @colleenclaes http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/05/14/polanski.second.accuser/index.html Honestly. Who saw this coming? about 22 hours ago

@DrMcButtcheeks But this just reminds me how I don’t even WANNA know how many old pervo Polanski did this to… about 22 hours ago

And that’s all for now. If you see anything you’d like me to elaborate on, please let me know! (Unfortunately, I don’t think my heart/anxiety can bear doing another lengthy post on Polanski…)

More 2010 Music Video Goodness: Beyonce’s ‘Why Don’t You Love Me’

Seriously – 2010 is already a year marked by amazing music videos that just so happen to be made mostly by female artists. (i.e.: Janelle Monae’s “Tightrope,” Eyrkah Badu’s “Window Seat,” and M.I.A.’s “Born Free”). And now THIS by Queen B. Amazing. I love the look of the video, the song (a bonus track on Sasha Fierce, sounds to me like a little channeling of sister Solange), and the OUTFITS! Oh, the outfits…

I would write more about this, but it’d basically just be a regurgitation of everything Jezebel already said.

Also, the director of this video should not go unnamed. Melina Matsoukas graduated from NYU and did her thesis on music videos. She has a pretty envy-inducing music video filmography as well.

M.I.A.’s “Born Free” Music Video – Who’s on the Bus?

UPDATE: As predicted, YouTube yanked the other upload of this video that I happened to find within 24 hours. You can watch it here on Vimeo – from the actual director’s page. (WARNING: This music video contains explicit, violent images)

This new M.I.A. video “Born Free” is something you have to watch, let roll around in your mind for a few hours, watch again, etc. Rinse, repeat.

In a nutshell, it’s a graphic political video that doesn’t hold back. A group of American soldiers storm through buildings and apartments searching for someone, and beating anyone who gets in their way. And who are they looking for? It turns out to be a resistant, young, white redheaded man. It becomes clear soon after that redheaded males are the only targeted group – and there’s an army-driven bus full of them. Ultimately, they are being driven off to be massacred.

One thing that this explicit video makes me think of is how the reign of MTV – and music television in general – is over. Not surprisingly, this video was primarily heard about through viral online tactics. As I’ve said before, the new music video platform is the internet. And what can you get away with on the internet? That’s right: Everything.

Sure, Marilyn Manson shocked everyone in the 90s when he released, for example, “The Dope Show” on MTV. But compare that to this M.I.A. video or the new Erykah Badu video and Manson just looks silly. I mean, the dude is only walking around in an alien body suit that gives him breasts…But this new wave of videos – these are forms of art that feel like they matter and are standing up for something. Artists are making statements not because they want to out-shock each other, but because they’re genuinely pissed off or impassioned. They are screaming to be heard.

As for M.I.A.’s video itself, there’s so much you could say. But I’ll give my first impressions. The choice of redheaded men as the target is the first thing to boggle your mind. Why them? It’s obviously symbolic in one way, or possibly in every way. You could say they represent Jewish people. You could say they represent Palestinians (and it’s interesting to note that the redheads attacking the bus are wearing red and white keffiyehs, most often associated with Jordan).

But for me what’s striking about this video isn’t who’s on the bus, but who’s not on the bus. People of color. Women. Girls. Blonde people. Dark-haired people. Old people. The only people targeted are light-skinned, redheaded boys and young men. But are M.I.A. and French director Romain Gavras trying to draw our attention to everyone who is and has been persecuted by marking their absence?

Another way to look at it is that it’s meant to make us realize how ridiculous profiling is. By asking, “Why the hell target redheaded young men?”, you might as well be asking, “Why the hell target Jewish people? Black people? Japanese people? Muslim people? Hispanic people?” The list goes on. The point being: There’s never a good reason for ethnic cleansing, prejudice, and profiling. It is never humane and it is never justified. And what good timing on M.I.A.’s part – just days after Arizona demands that Hispanics (or, sorry, only illegal immigrants…) show them their papers.

As for the artist herself, I do know this: Anyone who thought M.I.A. was done was horribly, horribly wrong. Long gone are the days of overplayed and eventually mediocre “Paper Planes.” M.I.A. does not just exist for you to announce that no one has “swagger” like you. This is why M.I.A. exists – to scream out against the world’s injustices. So get ready. ‘Cause it’s gonna get loud.

Janelle Monae Cover Art Channels 1927 ‘Metropolis’

Clearly, Janelle Monae is a big fan of somewhat-obscure film references. She already tipped us off by referencing a Maya Deren film in her video, “Tightrope.” But how awesome is this?

The left is the cover for Monae’s upcoming album (due for release on May 18th), The ArchAndroid; and the right is the promotional image for Fritz Lang’s 1927 sci-fi classic, Metropolis. I’m really digging this modern homage to the old movie.

Janelle Monae’s personal style is clearly unique with an emphasis on the futuristic and all things space-related. And interestingly enough, her EP was entitled Metropolis, which The Hydra called back in January a “neo-soul/dance interpretation of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.

Monae herself seems pretty excited about the cover art, with tweet after tweet about it on her Twitter. As she should be.

At this rate, maybe there will be a class like, “Janelle Monae: References to Film Culture through Music” at some film school someday. I’d enroll.

Erykah Badu Strips at the Grassy Knoll in “Window Seat” Video

Yes, you read that right.

This Erykah Badu video for the song “Window Seat” was filmed guerilla style and plays out in one single take. In a sentence: The camera follows Badu as she gradually takes off her clothes in a walk from a car to the place where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas – while several tourists and bystanders (including children) watch in shock. Badu hails from Dallas herself, for whatever significance that holds on the video. Here’s the full (censored) version:

The video’s biggest strength is the fact that it was (and had to be) done in one single shot. The best parts are when we see Badu fidget and hesitate to take off the next article of clothing, looking around somewhat self-consciously. You can tell that it’s setting in what she’s actually doing, but she has to keep doing it because they literally only have one shot at it before people start to get suspicious. After all, they have no permits and a woman is stripping down in public. Cops are a definite possibility. (She was, in fact, later charged with a class C misdemeanor.) If this was a standard, highly stylized music video with editing cuts galore, it just would not have the same effect.

You can also watch the video on her website right now in reverse, along with a short commentary from Badu in the beginning. Equally fascinating.

Janelle Monae is an Avant-Garde Film Geek (‘Tightrope’ Video)

Janelle Monae was already promising to be a distinguishable kind of talent with her 2007 EP and her 60s soul sound with a touch of outer space. And the music video for her new song “Tightrope” (to be released on her upcoming album in May) has given us even more to look forward to.

There’s one thing extra special about this video though. Aside from the smooth dancing, awesome energy, and undeniably catchy song, the video features a Maya Deren reference. (Puttin’ my film history cap on…) See those hooded people with the mirrors for faces? That’s from the mind of the renowned avant-garde filmmaker herself. And unmistakably so. The faceless, cloaked people appear in Deren’s experimental short, Meshes of the Afternoon (1943). See the original image at about 3:18 in this video:

Though made in the early 40s with very simple filmmaking techniques, this image alone effectively disturbs me every time I see it, and haunts me after.

As a fan of Maya Deren and her works, the reference came as a gleeful, nerdy surprise. Did someone really just pay homage to what some consider the “grandmother of avant-garde” in their music video?! I decided to do a Google search to see if my finding was novel. (It wasn’t, most unfortunately.) But I was pleased to find that a few other people took note of this.

Janelle and/or this music video director have earned extra points in my book for this. (Not that anyone’s reading my book, but still). For anyone who’s a fan of – or at least familiar with – Maya Deren, this little homage blows all the rest of them out of the water in its total unexpectedness. I hate to use the word “obscure,” but Deren is too often neglected outside of a film history class (assuming the curriculum covers avant-garde). As this guy says on MuuMuse, “Lady Gaga, eat your obscure cultural reference loving heart out.”

He’s right. I’ll take a nod to Deren over heavy-handed Tarantino references any day.

Music Video Appreciation #1: ‘Video Phone,’ Beyoncé

Artists: Beyoncé featuring Lady Gaga
Song: “Video Phone [Extended Remix]”
Director: Hype Williams

I know I’m a few months late on this, but I’m really blown away by the “Video Phone” music video. It’s strange, sexy, colorful, and enticing. It actually made me appreciate the song (which is also strange, especially for Beyoncé) more because of these visuals. Though it’s not clear why exactly Lady Gaga needed to be remixed into it, I don’t really mind it. I do believe though that the song is just as good on the album without Lady Gaga. (Someone actually said somewhere online that Lady Gaga’s voice doesn’t seem cut out for this kind of beat, and I have to agree.)

But back to the visuals. I love Hype Williams, and this video screams Hype Williams – almost back to his old Busta Rhymes days. I also appreciate the nod to Reservoir Dogs in the opening sequence. Odd-looking guns, even odder-looking outfits, and men with cameras for heads make this video uniquely appealing. So appealing, in fact, that I felt the need to post it. (EDITOR’S NOTE: I am planning on incorporating more music video posts like this a few times a month. Thoughts? Suggestions?)