Seriously, this may be the hip-hop verse closest to my own experience EVER: “I went to museums and the planetarium / I was the toughest motherfucker at the aquarium / Walking down Queens Boulevard, scared of the traffic-a / Only 8-year-old sneaking into “Out of Africa” / Hung out with my Aunt Joyce, she was like my art coach / We would go see foreign movies starring Juliette Binoche / We saw “My Left Foot” starring Daniel Day-Lewis / To me, my Aunt Joyce was such an influential Jewess.”
I’m not playing. My own influential Jewess, my grandmother, passed away many years ago. But she read me great books, and took me to my first symphony, a performance of “The Planets,” conducted by a man in a space suit. No joke. She deserves much of the credit for my interest in culture, much more, certainly, than I give her here.
So, the New York Post has a piece on the creation of Lady Gaga as a personality and a marketing ploy that implies that the artifice, and the fact that she doesn’t talk about it much, is some how “darker” than speculation about her sexual orientation or gender identity. This strikes me as incredibly stupid. First, who expects their pop stars to actually be genuine? This is an industry where Britney Spears got breast implants before she finished puberty, for god’s sake. Where Pink recorded a listenable but laughable urban album before winning the right to do pop-rock. Everything‘s fake. Nobody sells 35 million downloads on the power of spontaneity and genuineness.
And I’d much rather someone create a persona of a creative, abstracted, empowered freak and get rich off it than be forced into an intense sexualization of themselves before they’re ready for it. I mean, Lady Gaga may be mercenary in setting up a charity for homeless queer youth (and let’s hope, please G-d, that it doesn’t have Yele’s financial problems), maybe it’s all a part of her image, but I don’t care. I’ll take this kind of fake over all the others out there.
Update: I’m aware the videos aren’t showing up in the post. SO sorry. Working on a network that blocks YouTube for bandwidth reasons, but I’ll plug the code back in when I can.
I’m headed up to New York this morning, so blogging might be a little bit light. But as an apology, here’s a mini YouTube mixtape:
1. “New York Groove,” Ace Frehley (cover): Sure, Sinatra’s great. But I don’t actually love “New York, New York.” Maybe that’s just because I’m a crazed Red Sox fan, and I have to represent, but the whole “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere” line always felt a little…obvious to me. “New York Groove” nails how New York vibes, without having to spell it out.
2. “Celebrity Skin,” Hole: I was talking to PostBourgie’s Shani yesterday about how much we worry about Amy Winehouse. But to a certain extent, Amy’s just a stand-in for my concerns about Courtney Love. It’s almost shocking how good she looks in this video, from that initally falling shot to the intense green of her eyes when they snap open after the chandelier smashes to the floor. But I digress. I know this song, and the album in general, are about Hollywood, but I think the sentiments here apply equally well to New York.
3. “American Boy,” Estelle: As much as I get annoyed by the dominance of New York and LA in our popular culture, the cross-country and trans-Atlantic buoyancy of this track is wonderful, and got Estelle at least some of the attention she so richly deserves over here. Besides, “Can we get away this weekend? Take me to Broadway? / Let’s go shopping, maybe then we’ll go to a cafe / Let’s go on the subway, take me to your hood / I’ve never been to Brooklyn and I’d like to see what’s good” is basically my agenda for the weekend. Although I have been to Brooklyn.
4. “Above the Clouds,” Amber: Oh, Lord. I’m about to reveal myself as one of those women. But I really do associate this song with New York because of how it’s used at the end of the third season finale of Sex and the City. Before you all vote to exile me, here’s why I like that scene. All the women are single or in wierd states of emotional ambiguity. Samantha’s throwing a barbeque for the trans prostitutes in her neighborhood, and everyone’s hanging out. It’s one of the last moments before the show became an icon and a commodity, and I like that everyone’s happiness feels really earned. Plus, it’s just a great song. The Jonathan Peters radio edit is best, but it’s hard to find, so live with this.
5. “Miami 2017,” Billy Joel: I’ve always thought the idea that New York is An Idea That Will Endure Beyond All Things is a little absurd, even after September 11. There are too many New Yorks, and they evolve too rapidly, for there to be a coherent Unified Theory of New York. But I think “Miami 2017″ is a song that embraces that concept even as it recognizes its absurdity. Mythos is good, as long as it’s self-aware.
6. “Open All Night,” Bruce Springsteen & The Sessions Band: A lot of the people who glamorize New York are the ones who come to it from elsewhere, and a lot of the fun of glamorizing it is talking about it on the trip there and back again. There is just an absurd amount of joy and energy in this song, which you can hear better if you buy the Live in Dublin album, which really you ought to have done at some point anyway. This sounds like the best trip to New York and back again, ever. Also, anyone who argues with “Hey, ho, rock ‘n’ roll / Deliver me from nowhere” as a lyric should be institutionalized.