I don’t even know what to say, except that I hope this particular diversion in Amanda Seyfried’s otherwise promising career is brief:
If the Dixie Chicks are actually breaking up, and it’s not just that Martie Maguire and Emily Robison are recording an album without Natalie Maines. I love the Chicks, and not in the ironic way that I love the admittedly-sometimes-indefensible Toby Keith. One of my editors recommended I start listening to country while I wrote a couple of years ago, because she said the narratives in the songs would help, and the Dixie Chicks were definitely one of the bands I had in heavy rotation while I was testing out her advice. Ultimately, I think the rhythms of hip-hop work better for me (I need something to bounce back and forth to while I write, and the cadences of rap just work for that), but I got a good education. I can see how the pressure the band’s been under, both political and commercial, could be hard to stand, and that they might need a serious break from each other. But in case this is the last we’re going to get, can we discuss for a minute how completely fantastic their music videos often were? Take “Goodbye Earl,” which gives a starring role to Jane Krakowski, and which actually makes it clear how ugly battery can be in between the black humor:
Or how about the one for “Not Ready to Make Nice,” which is, to a certain extent, political overkill, but still incredibly stark and lovely, and I think communicates some of the tension her bandmates must have felt towards Natalie, even if they were broadly supportive of her right to speak her mind. The ink swirling in the water gets me every time:
And then there’s “Without You,” which is the rare music video that uses nudity to communicate tenderness and vulnerability rather than sexiness:
I don’t have much to say about the excerpt Rolling Stone has from Patti Smith’s new memoir of her time with Robert Mapplethorpe except that it’s lovely and extremely sweet:
On Valentine’s Day, Robert gave me an amethyst geode. It was pale violet and nearly the size of a half grapefruit. He submerged it in water and we looked at the glowing crystals. When I was a kid I had dreamed of being a geologist. I recounted how I spent hours looking for rock specimens, wearing an old hammer tied around my waist. “No, Patti, no,” he laughed.
My gift to him was an ivory heart with a cross carved in the center. Something in this object provoked a rare childhood tale from him, and he told me how he and the other altar boys would secretly rummage through the priests’ private closet and drink the vestment wine. The wine didn’t interest him; it was the funny feeling in his stomach that excited him, the thrill of doing something forbidden.
Given the notoriety he later achieved (not that I necessarily think any of that is actually justified), there’s something innocent about all of this, and endearing. The stuff about them choosing between cheese sandwiches and art supplies, about what a treat a Mallomar or a coconut ball was, underscores Smith and Mapplethorpe’s mutual rise. I don’t think artistic success should count for more if the people who achieve it were desperately poor when they started out. And I don’t necessarily think that niceness or lack thereof should actually influence the way we judge art (There are exceptions. If the means of production of a work is morally intolerable, whether it’s snuff, or use of forced labor, or whatever, I think that’s a different matter.) But I already liked Smith and Mapplethorpe’s work before reading this, and it’s certainly nice to be able to feel warmly towards them as people, too.
You guys, after reading this Jezebel post about French rapper Diam’s conversion to Islam, I am LOSING IT over this girl:
I’m seriously, this is close to the Platonic Form of how I like flow to be. It’s gorgeous. I have no idea what she’s saying, and for once in my life, I could not care less. As I’ve written before, my love for hip-hop is hugely influenced by my experience with high school policy debate. I like flow fast, and full of bravado. But most of all, I need my flow to be smooth. You can’t hear the breath pauses in Diam’s voice. She’s going fairly fast. The phrases aren’t chopped up. Just gorgeous. I realize this is a prejudice, born out of debate (and yeah, it’s called flowing there too) where the ratings you got for your speeches declined the choppier and breathier you sounded (content counted too, of course). But I can’t get beyond it in hip-hop. It’s a condition of how I listen. Here’s more:
I ended up talking to DJ Stylus, rapidly becoming this blog’s Official Hip-Hop Adviser, about this a little bit, but I think French is particularly conducive to strong flow. Something about the rolled “r”s, and the words that end in vowels. He was kind enough to point me in the direction of 20syl, who is totally incredible too, if a little more laid-back and jazzy sounding than Diam’s.
And Stylus has more to say about the experience of hip-hop overseas here. (Update: And Stylus has more to say, and more video in comments.) I love, love falling down rabbit holes like this, and finding all this treasure I never knew was there. If you’ve got more, send it in my direction, please.