How NOT to write about music – 99. pnygrl


Several years back, when I was teaching at QUT, I was casting around for material for a week 12 lecture in Sex Drugs Rock’n’Roll when someone turned me onto the following (not all at once, but cumulatively):

And so forth…

So I wrote a lecture entitled “the Appeal of the WRONG in Pop Music”, with a certain amount of focus on Bobby and Chris Brown, Led Zeppelin and the like, arguing that it is the deviance from the norm – especially if it means transgressing boundaries of acceptable behaviour and/or behaving like misogynistic assholes – that often makes artists appealing. I say “wrote”. I trawled and found a dozen videos and talked around them in class, pulling in a little contemporary commentary (Hopper, Herron and the like) to help support my somewhat dubious analysis. All the above videos are challenging, could cause more than a couple of raised eyebrows if viewed over your shoulder by colleagues at work: these may only be performances but these are performances that push at the boundaries of hetero-normative behaviour, that challenge conceptions of how woman (in particular) should be seen to behave in public, that use sexuality to help promote the product (unless you want to argue the video not the song is the product itself – and that is an argument I am happy to listen to) but it is a deviant sexuality and all the more alluring for that.

I devised a great (paid) column out of the lecture that ran for a considerable length of time on Australia’s The Vine website – my brief diversifying to include Tiny Tim (‘Earth Angel’), Outsider Music, Katy Perry and … well, many. Sadly, the website went belly-up several years back and so you can no longer find the column.

I am reminded of all this today by unknown artist and blogger pnygrl – she comes from the fetish industry, as her videos make apparent – but not only is her music sinuous and sensual, laidback and intoxicated R&B that smells like someone somewhere has smoked at least five too many spliffs, but her videos (fuzzy, blurred, direct, slow motion, intimate) are equally as strange and appealing.

I say videos. I have only seen one to date.

This is certainly to be encouraged, for damn sure. Her music feels unfinished and only partly formed, like some half-remembered sleepy sex dream, but this only adds to its charm.

How NOT to write about music – 34. Little Mix

little mix

What if you’re not looking for authenticity in your music, what then?

What if you’re not looking for ways to interpret and understand your own day-to-day life?

What if you understand that all music is a performance?

What if music does not feed into your sense of identity, but instead serves to distract away from it?

What if the main time you encounter music is during the Radio One Breakfast Show?

What if you are so tired after travelling and working all day, so overburdened with a surfeit of human contact, that your favourite sound to listen to when you get back home late at night to a well cold and empty house is silence?

What if the reason you like or dislike music is not because it is “manufactured’ (what’s that?) or ‘inauthentic’ (what’s that?) or gender-specific or imaginative or has that special half-second echo on the kick drum or the size of the marketing budget but whether it measures up to Bey, to Ariana, to Chicago (the musical), to Mary Poppins?

What if you view music on the same terms as television, as film, as video games?

What if you are just seeking diversion and lip service to the sort of fragile relationships you turned your back on decades ago?

What if you have long thought that Nicki Minaj is way more entertaining and imaginative and creates (I dunno) way more adventurous noise pollution than anything the more feted rock and avant-rock and doom metal and whatever genres have thrown up in decades?

What if you started believing in stars like Lauren Bacall or Katherine Hepburn again?

What if you figure it’s OK to escape to an aspiration dreamworld, long as you avoid the aspiration?

What if you understood that growing up is doing nothing of the sort?

This performance feels false to me, but so the fuck what. Maybe I just resent folk having a good time.