Year in Music 2010, part two

[This is part two of my post on this year’s music. Part one can be found here.]

Here we go, with more songs and videos:

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Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” video

I recently got a few of the Field Notes notebooks, checking them out to see if they’d make decent replacements or additions to my Moleskine notebooks. So far the Field Notes has a significant advantage, which is I can keep one in my back pockets comfortably. I have been keeping a list of things I need to do, ideas for future writing projects, people’s phone numbers, etc. I’d been using the Evernote website and phone app. However, I realized that while I sent myself notes from my phone, I never checked the site again. So, pen and paper it is.

The list is long, my friends. Long.

But at least I am not on the phone with local grocery stores, looking for a specific product, like J currently is. I can hear her in the office as she is trying to explain the product we are looking for.

I have a few deadline-type-things coming up, but before I dive into those projects I wanted to briefly comment on the Lady Gaga video for “Alejandro.”

I’ve seen various people Around The Internets mentioning that there is nothing new in having fetish imagery, religious imagery, or fascist imagery in your videos. Yawn, I have heard people say. Try again, Lady Gaga, they say.

I rather think this is completely missing the point.

What is transgressive about the video for “Alejandro” is that cross-dressing and homosexual behaviors of the male dancers. Women have been making out with each other in music videos for ages. That’s old hat. It takes a video like “Telephone,” with it’s extremes of gender identity, to make women-on-woman sexuality interesting. (I believe that the extremely butch woman in that video identifies as a woman, not as trans or as a man — if I am wrong about that, someone tell me in comments?) But the male dancers in “Alejandro” wear high-heeled shoes, they bottom to Lady Gaga, they simulate fucking each other, they kiss, they wear high-waisted shorts that look like male corsets —

That’s still all pretty damn transgressive.

The sexuality of nearly-naked men in music videos is rarely feminized. I’m having trouble thinking of a single example. Even in Madonna’s “Express Yourself,” to which “Alejandro” keeps getting compared, the male dancers are powerful icons of masculinity. They are slaves of the machine, but they are not getting pegged while wearing high-heels.

The iconography of “Alejandro” is not original. Even the machine-gun bra is homage, not originality. But Lady Gaga is making a point about the object of our collective sexualized gaze. The objects of her sexual actions are the men. They are props in her dance, objects in her meta-narrative point about making music videos.

I also suspect she’s making a point about her own press and hype, about her reputation as a groundbreaking pop star. And I suspect her point is that she knows perfectly well the tradition to which she is indebted, and that she respects the work of those who have come before her. Madonna, David Bowie, Queen, the Eurythmics, Duran Duran, Prince — all the epic music video stars whose efforts helped create an art form.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this video is just a bit lazy. But I think I’m right and that “Alejandro” is far more trangressive than it’s getting credit for.

My 2009 in music

This is a personal list, a retrospective, not an attempt at a best-of. I can’t say that this was particularly a year of new music for me. Not in the sense that the music was produced or released in this year. (Well, some of it was.) But this is the music that moved me, that held me, that I fell into in 2009. (And, yes, those tactile metaphors are deliberate. Music-as-overwhelming-physical-sensation, that thing that makes me bang on the steering wheel as I drive to and from work, you know?)

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