HUMP DAY GRAB BAG: Alternative Alternatives

August 25, 2010

By Max

NOT TO BE A HUGE JERK, but there’s This Pop Singer Who Is Really Famous Right Now and kind of bumming me out. I don’t want to shit-talk cause it’s a total waste of time, but it’s gotten to the point in my life where when people mention how much they love this singer, I feel deep pangs of personal guilt, because it means that the person I’m talking to and I are fundamentally disagreeing on some things. It’s like how in the early 00s (‘member?) sometimes you’d be at a soccer game or the supermarket or a PTA meeting and someone would say nonchalantly that they had voted for Bush, and it would just send up a red flag? It feels like that.

The thing that bugs me about This Pop Singer Who Is Really Famous Right Now is that she purports to be something of a Performance Artist. Now, I’m not going to say that Pop Music and Performance Art are mutually exclusive, but I will say that the kind of Pop Music this singer is making is absolutely antithetical to the goals of performance art. According not only to my, but in fact anybody’s definition of performance art. Performance Art necessarily means something that is expressed / transmitted via (you guessed it!) PERFORMANCE. This Singer’s work is almost always mediated through studio magick, the radio, MTV, YouTube, Fashion Photography, Twitter, etc. It’s deliberately a kind of Art that doesn’t need to be performed live, since it’s readily accessible. Just saying. So when I am getting bugged out about this I figure I can either rage against the dying of the light (incorrect use whatever) or I can offer some alternative to This Pop Singer Who Is Really Famous Right Now. So let’s do that.


Maybe you already know about her. The thing with This Pop Singer Who Is Really Famous Right Now is that she often claims that the biggest misconception about her is that she’s fake, that she’s artificial, and she wants you to know that she is Always Glamorous, Always In Drag, and very Real. OK I’ll bite: BULLSHIT. This video for the title track from Murphy’s second solo album Overpowered plays with a similar idea, in a much more interesting way (I think). The premise of the video is that Murphy’s stage persona never comes off, that she wears her ultra-bizarre high fashion outfit (Courtesy of Gareth Pugh– Murphy was wearing Pugh long before Kylie, Rihanna, Beyoncé, and the Pop Singer In Question) in cafes, on the bus, etc. as a way of juxtaposing the artificial with the real. It makes an interesting comment on the nature of celebrity culture and beauty. Oh also, this came out in 2007.


HAD TO GO THERE. The thing about Kylie Minogue is that she’s world-famous everywhere except for the USA. In most of Europe, she’s more famous than Madonna. Madonna has, for those Europhiles (and American Fags) who have been keeping track, been ripping off Kylie for decades. SO while This Pop Singer Nowadays rips off Madonna, she’s actually not even citing the Minogue sources. The almost-Goth, sort of vaguely “dark” aesthetic that This Pop Singer employs was much better used, again in 2007, by Kylie in the video for “2 Hearts”. Other than the fact that this song and video are excellent, the fact that the shiny skull is a reference to Alexander McQueen, the skull itself was actually a symbol of triumph. When this video came out, it was the lead single from Kylie’s “comeback” album X. Comeback, I mean, from breast cancer. Kylie has an authentic right to glamorize the macabre because unlike the Pop Singer Nowadays, who’s whole shtick is utterly devoid of anything involving “the real world” or “obscurity”, when Kylie released this video, singing into a skull microphone, she has just beaten Death. Top that.


It’s no secret that I love Grace Jones. I listen her every single day and she is a totally guiding force in my life. It is with no small amount of disappointment that I continually see This Pop Singer referencing her work. Grace Jones’ eccentricity is best exemplified by the video above (total. personal. anthem.) Unlike the current Pop Singer, who equates randomness and embellishment with intellectual weight, this video shows Grace in what appears to be her natural habitat, running from Keith Haring’s studio to the wardrobe closet to the chiropractor. The message here is that even with this totally unsustainable, unreal level of glamour, she is able to look directly to the camera and sing a love song. The layers of artifice serve to create a distance which the song’s message ostensibly crosses, rather than simply mask the singer’s face. Grace wants you to know that you and her are meant to be.


Look, one of the things that I don’t understand about This Pop Singer, is how she simultaneously seems to be singing about her “feelings” while denying any trace of actual human emotion. She is bloodless. Does pop music have to be this way? Not if Robyn has anything to say about it. The marriage of a human heart and a dance beat may sound strange on paper, but with Robyn it makes perfect sense.


Thought it’d be nice to have a non-girl, non-superstar in the mix. Toronto’s Diamond Rings proves that you can do really cool interesting pop music without a multimillion dollar budget. Look, even Kathleen Hanna is a fan. That ought to be enough. This video is really cool and proves that really, real people can and do succeed at aspiring to glamour and art. Who needs a custom haute couture outfit? Just put a sexy kid in a Karl Lagerfeld t-shirt. Signify, baby. This is what postmodernism ACTUALLY looks like.

So whatever. These are some things you can listen to and watch instead. Check them out.

Stay dry, America. Stay motherfucking dry.



June 7, 2010

by Tommy

Thanks everyone who came out to Bushwick Open Studios this weekend, and to Vol 1 and Slice Magazine, who let us take part in the BOS zine fair. We met a lot of fellow zinesters/independent publishers and and a lot of generally curious people who walked in on a whim. Tabling took a lot more out of me than I realized (all that socializing and pep) and at the beginning of the season I always underestimate the physical toll of the heat/humidity– so this morning I definitely had to remind myself that water goes in the coffee maker before you press brew. #mondays #whatsthatsmell

u lyke my sliperzzzzzz

Also, I had yet to officially announce this on the blog, but you should know what we at the Birdsong HQ are holding a writing contest for our Winter 2010 issue.  $50, publication in birdsong #14 and a featured spot in our December reading series awaits one short (less than 1500 words) prose piece and one poem.  We’re changing things around, publishing the zine just three times a year– but laying it out in InDesgin (instead of Word), printing the art in full color (instead of photocopying it), and screenprinting the covers.  The deadline is October 1st, and the details can be found here. And on to the week.

Monday, June 7 (tonight!)

Little Victory is playing tonight and I don’t think I can top my blurb from before, so I’ll just reiterate: they “make fun music that sounds like jumping on the hood of a purple Impala while spray painting Newt Gingrich’s leathery face.” Yup.

Bruar Falls, 245 Grand St., 10pm free

Thursday, June 10

This is where the week gets a little busy. Tonight, birdsong contributing editor Lauren Wilkinson is a judge at the L Magazine’s 3rd (and final) semi-final round of the Literary Upstart Short Fiction Competition. Here’s a photo from the last one, where a birdsong face-off ensued during the literary trivia round.

birdsong videographer Diego Medina vs publicity maven Chantal Johnson. It's you-know-what is crooked.

and here we are, deep-dishing/I’m clutching my pearls.

C: "it engorged" T: "oh dear!" D: "tell me moreeee"

and Lauren, getting her judge on.

Three men and a rude baby

ALSO!!! that night, and closeby,  birdsong‘s  favorite band PAPS plays Mercy Choir’s CD release party.  I just heard their new song and it’s the SHIIIIIT, it just keeps getting better and better.  I know I’ve posted this before but I love it so who cares, here is a really great video of PAPS (shot by Diego) at the release party for Max Steele’s Scorcher #5

Lit Upstart- Spike Hill, 184 + 186 Bedford Ave, 7pm
PAPS for Mercy Choir- Bar Matchless, 557 Manhattan Ave, 8pm

This Weekend: Hillstock 2010: a D.I.Y. Music Festival

This weekend you should definitely check out the Hillstock Music Festival.  Like BOS, there are a lot of different shows at different venues around Brooklyn, including rooftop picnics and backyard BBQs (clearly the only place you want to be in the summertime), so check out the schedule.  And come see PAPS play the roof (they go on around 7:30pm).  T’will be on fire.

PAPS @ the singer/songwriter rooftop picnic, Sunday June 13 7:30pm, 967 Bergen St.

Two Girls, One Twilight

August 10, 2009

By Tatyana and Michelle


I used to think Michelle was hands down the coolest person alive. But then one drunken night she watched the Twilight movie and proceeded to get sucked into the series. Like, I still thought she was cool, but I don’t know maybe just a little lonely or something? Then my mom came and brought me all the Twilight books. Fifty pages into I was unconvinced, then suddenly, a switch was flipped. I began having dreams; I walked around in a perpetual Twilight haze. And suddenly, Michelle was back to being the coolest (mortal) person I knew again. So now our entire friendship is predicated on barely legal softcore vampire porn. Here is a sampling of our conversations.

Have I ever been this attracted to a man in lipstick before?

Have I ever been this attracted to a man in lipstick before?

Tatyana: Okay, so I read about 250 pages of New Moon yesterday and I’m getting kind of bored. Like, werewolves are great and everything but I want some sexy vampires stat. What is it about vampires? I never thought anything about them, and then Twilight inspired me to start watching True Blood and I swear to god I’m never gonna bone a mortal dude again. What’s wrong with me?!

Michelle: DUDE. Seriously! Speaking from the status of a Breaking Dawn (book 4) reader, I must say don’t worry baby! He’ll be back and you’ve got some 300-600 more pages of non-boning related reading to do. Also, Bella Swan – down to fuck, am i right? I think vampires have always been portrayed as sexy and seducing, because that’s how they attract their prey right? And by prey i mean my vagina. However, don’t get me wrong. The things I would let that werewolf do to me! So many howling jokes…

I mean is it just me or does this all seem to be playing out as the age old (read: racist) battle of stone cold Anglo who’s stoic and quiet vs. the tall ‘exotic’ hot-blooded short tempered dark boy? Oh Jacob Black yr so crazy. I wish i could tame yr Native American ways. Eugh, Stephenie Meyer, why?!?!

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What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

July 8, 2009

by Tommy


Let’s all get drunk and play ping pong. j/k but here’s some cool stuff going on this week lets go together! (also this is kind of a work in progress so let me know if I should include anything thats not here)-

Wednesday July 8th (thats today!)

6:30pm – Summerscreen: Reality Bites @ McCarren Park
The L Magazine is kicking off its summer movie series (formerly held in McCarren Pool [remember when they found a dead body there? Was that last summer?]) with a classic early ’90s offering. Also Music from the Wild Yaks, a happy hour, and food from San Loco (!!!), Two Boots (yay Tya!), DUB Pies and Van Leeuwen Ice Cream. What else would you possibly do on a Wednesday night? Except maybe…

8-10:30pm – Drink n Draw @ 3rd Ward
They provide the beer and the model, you bring drawing tools and creativity. $15/person or $10 with a friend, Free for members. I’ve always wanted to go PS I heard the models are total babes but that could just be me making it up right now (lying contest!)

Thursday July 9th

6:30pm – Poetry from the Rooftops @ Arsenal Building Rooftop, Central Park.
With Lytton Smith, Priscilla Sneff, and Rebecca Wolff.

What’s better than a New York rooftop in the Summer? A poetry reading on a New York rooftop overlooking Central Park in the summertime thats what. I wish I could go, Rebecca Wolff is really inspiring. She turned Fence, her lit magazine, into Fence Books and basically ushered in the trend of elliptical poetry. But I will be at…

7pm – L Magazine Literary Upstart Finals
The L Magazine’s annual search for pocket fiction. Remember when Lauren Wilkinson KILLED that shit last year? Remember how I made everyone go and cheer and yell “Boo Books!” and wasted no time having my picture taken with her oversized novelty check? The one still sitting in her living room? Well its a brand new year and Lauren is going to pass her crown (metaphorically of course) to New York’s next literary upstart. One dollar Dog-something beers (probably).

7:30 pm – Indie Press Night with Seven Stories Press @ WORD
Our good friend (and former Birdsong #7 guest reader) Douglas A. Martin will read from his new novel, Once You Go Back, along with Lee Stringer, author of the memoir Sleepaway School. Martin and Stringer will also discuss its common source-childhoods that run off the rails, exposing kids to forces that can equally destroy and nourish a young, creative life-as well as the process, the struggle, and the redemptive power of autobiographically-charged writing. Phong Bui, publisher of The Brooklyn Rail, will moderate.

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