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.


RIP Corey Haim Hump Day Grab Bag

March 10, 2010

By Tatyana

It’s strange. I recently made an off-handed comment about how the music industry has lost more greats than the motion picture industry, and then snarkily suggested that the motion picture industry kill off some of their greats. Then lo and behold, 2 days later Corey Haim bites the dust. First of all, I’m not necessarily saying Corey Haim is a great. He is an… all right? (RIP Corey Haim). Second of all, this is not the first time that I’ve accidentally willed a celebrity to die. I have been known to randomly mention actors the day before they keel. This guy knows what I’m talking about.

The response on the internet is, as usual, incredibly profound.

I would be lying if I said I knew much about Corey Haim. My childhood was devoid of the pop culture that informs most of the party jokes of my peers, as I was only allowed to watch a handful of movies–usually based on books featuring scrappy, but well-mannered Victorian girls– or retrospectively terrifying PBS shows.


Sometimes, if I was lucky, my grandma would encourage me to write letters to Barbara Bush about how much I loved to read.

Something else Barbara Bush and I have in common.

It was only recently that I even watched the Lost Boys for the first time!

Obviously, it’s always very sad for anyone who loses a Corey too soon, and RIP Corey Haim. But this whole thing really got me thinking about the teen pop culture of the generation just before ours, or maybe that of our older brothers or sisters, and how now all of those celebrities are old. Remember the John Hughes tribute at the Oscars? Maybe you didn’t catch it because the Botoxed skin of the Brat Pack was reflecting the diamond broadcasts a little too brightly. How terrifying was that? Anyway, that was a bit of a nail in the coffin for the genre of sentimental 1980s movies. Sorry about your feelings, Ally Sheedy. Sorry about your face, Molly Ringwald.

So RIP Corey Haim, and RIP all of us eventually. Nobody’s forever young. Except of course for these guys.

Hump Day Grab Bag

December 16, 2009

West Coasties (not really)

By Michelle

Hey Hey Hey
Its hump day grab bag ya’ll. It’s actually still Tuesday night where I am but whatever. East Coast Time, New York, feelings, etc. The theme of my grab bag is I can’t grow up considering all my items have to do with out-dated TV references, cats, and Twilight. In case any of you don’t know, I haven’t had cable or a decent internet connection for weeks and only recently acquired such. Is this what it felt like to discover fire? Amazement filled with shame and regret over wasted time and money? I apologize in advance if you’ve already totally discussed these topics with yr Brooklyn besties in a bar I’ll never go to that projectss blogs on the beer bellies of naked 35 yr old hipster/DJ/bloggers drinking PBR in lamé jumpsuits. JEALOUS. Seriously though, you’re the most missed New York.

So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty sadness of my existence. Oh it’s gritty down here. Watch out for that pile of grit.

I feel great about my life decisions now

As you all know, I’ve read all 4 Twilight books. I also saw New Moon the day it came out. I ALSO HAVE SAID OUT LOUD AND SOBER, THAT TAYLOR LAUTNER NEEDS TO GET IN MY BED WHERE HE BELONGS SO I CAN BREAK HIS FEET AND A EAT RAW FISH SOUP OFF HIS NAKED BODY FOREVER. I am not proud of myself. But sometimes you just gotta be a disturbing sad girl.

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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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