And we’re back! What did we miss?

PolitiPop has returned!

Yes indeed, after a few solid weeks of rest and relaxation, travel, and a slew general summer activities, PolitiPop is back and ready to bring you the best in politics and pop culture.   Looking back at the news from our time apart its pretty clear — the apocalypse may very well be upon us.

Ok, I’m exaggerating, I don’t believe in Revelation’s, but here’s a few stories from the last couple of weeks that could make one think (wish?) it were the end-of-days:

– Congress and President Obama finally came to a deal on raising the debt ceiling… by leaving the “job creators” (a.k.a the wealthy folks) alone with their cash and slashing federal spending, with the promise that more cuts are to come at the discretion of a Super Committee, where entitlement programs, like Medicare and Social Security, and the defense budget are all on the table.

– Following up the debt deal the U.S. loses its AAA rating from S&P; it’s unfortunate for Obama that this happened on his watch, but with outrage set firmly against the ratings firms (who are said to have botched calculations) and Congress’ petty bickering along party lines, it seems like the blame is being pretty well spread around.

London’s burning; this is not a reference to The Clash.

– Texas Gov. Rick Perry throws his ten gallon hat into the ring for 2012.  Back in June, The Texas Tribune ran a very informative piece detailing why the Republican and frequent First Amendment violator, should not run for president.  Why God, why?

Newsweek ran this extremely horrifying cover featuring Michele Bachmann. No, seriously God, why?

On the upside, if you want to call it that (and I do, I loved the movie), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, grossed over $1.2 billion worldwide, making it the 3rd highest grossing film of all time.  Moviegoers flocked to the theaters to watch the wizarding world finally break free from He Who Must Not Be Named, briefly escaping the endlessly depressing news reports inundating every facet of our lives, but our Muggle troubles are nothing compared to what the Ministry of Magic is now facing post-Voldamort.  Foreign Policy ran a fascinating piece looking at the long road ahead for the wizarding community.

Finally, I spent last weekend in Chicago, attending the city’s yearly music festival Lollapalooza.  Despite the torrential rain and the ankle-deep mud, acts like the Foo Fighters, DeadMau5 and Cold War Kids played on for the dirty-yet-enthusiastic crowds.  One performance that stood out was Damien Marley and Nas; their plea for unification was moving especially in the song, “Leaders,” when they asked for all to stand up and lead, not just in politics but in life, singing, “Oh leaders, let’s all change the world.”

And then, I kid you not, a rainbow appeared.


Otis Redding, Kanye West and Jay-Z together at last…

I could start off this post by launching into the very debatable topic of originality — in art, writing, music, film, et. al. — and whether or not anything is ever really a bona fide “first,” but I won’t.  That’s more like a dissertation topic than it is a blog post.  I will only say that, personally, I find some of the most innovative ideas are those that overtly take other concepts and build upon them to create something new. I will also say that some of the best examples of this are found in music, and that I’ve always enjoyed Kanye West and Jay-Z mainly for this reason.

Jay-Z and West are fantastic collaborators, both with each other and with others.  West’s recent “All of the Lights” which featured Rihanna, Elton John, and Kid Cudi comes to mind here, as does his collaboration with Bon Iver on “Lost in the World.”  West is of course following in the footsteps of his mentor Jay-Z, who has collaborated with artists spanning across several genres; some of my favorites include “Lost!” with Coldplay, “Numb/Encore” with Linkin Park, and the summer anthem of 2010, “Empire State of Mind” with Alicia Keys.

Now the masters of collaboration are once again, well, collaborating, and the first single is enough to get me excited for their upcoming LP Watch the Throne.  While I enjoyed their last joint effort, “H*A*M,” their new track “Otis” is more laid back with a nice sampling of Otis Redding on loop in the background.

How can you listen Otis Redding and not want to be at the beach?

I won’t try and pull in anything political here, despite there being some allusions to immigration in “Otis,” I don’t want to ruin a good thing here and read more into the song than is necessary.  To read the lyrics and more about Jay, Ye and Otis you can visit Stereogum.


Lady Gaga lives in Lagos

The video for Goldie Harvey’s new single “Don’t Touch,” opens in black and white, on a pair of bejeweled lips.  A rapid sequence of images reveal a female dancing in a glow-in-the-dark corset and frilled mask; star-shaped glasses à la Elton John; barely-discernible spiderwebs twitching around the whites of crystal-rimmed eyes.  Next we are looking into a padded room with illegible words scrawled on the glass in lipstick—the ravings of an insane woman—Goldie is shoved in, straightjacketed and dirty, with her hair teased into disarray.  It’s not hard to see why some refer to the Nigerian pop star as the “African Lady Gaga.”

In the video, which was shot in Lagos and directed by Clarence Peters, Goldie chants “don’t touch my body” to a swift electric beat while moving through a collection of unpredictable scenes, each one stranger than the last. Goldie is an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, an angel, and a circus ringleader; she sports a red feather-and-sequined headdress and then plays assistant to a knife thrower.  Several times in the video Goldie is shown wearing a leather corset and lace stockings, posing in front of what could easily have been a left-over set dressing from the last Tron film.

“Don’t Touch” is erratic and obscure but for a reason; the stream-of-consciousness style composition highlights an overarching element of insanity.  Like Rihanna’s high-speed convulsing in “Disturbia,” or Lady Gaga’s rigid fingers and white-tiled walls in “Bad Romance,” Goldie’s allusions to madness typify a common theme present in the music of many of today’s successful female artists.

In the age of the viral video, where everyone is competing for hits and shameless poise is the ultimate goal, female empowerment still comes with the caveat that the woman must be at least a little bit crazy.  Not necessarily bad nor incontrovertibly good, artists like Gaga and Rihanna have helped popularize the hot, edgy, slightly unstable female persona (“gaga” is literally a synonym of “insane”).  Goldie embodies the role with relish, enticing unseen males under the guise of seduction, she breathes “come on boy,” just before pumping the breaks.

Like “Disturbia” and “Bad Romance,” Goldie’s track is lyrically simple but visually complex, and equally fun to listen to.  Just remember, no touching.

Originally posted on Africa is a County.


T-Paw hearts Gaga

GOP candidate Tim Pawlenty loves Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith… this is not surprising.  But when the former Minnesota governor turns the tables on his interviewers, the ladies of the D.C.-based pop culture blog Glittarazzi, by asking them to name their favorite Lady Gaga song… well, now I’m surprised—for a minute any way.  Once I recover from the original shock, reality sets in.

Is this Pawlenty’s best effort at becoming relevant?  It kind of seems like someone on his staff thought they could make the incredibly dull Republican seem “edgy,” by going against the stereotype and having him divulge his secret love for the bisexual, outspokenly-liberal pop star.

Oh, T-Paw, try harder.  Or better yet, don’t try, just stay boring, it’s much less awkward that way.


Where Lady Gaga and Bon Iver Collide

What do Lady Gaga and Bon Iver have in common?  Well, um, give me a minute…

Okay, they’re both musicians, have released albums in the last month or so, and are both very talented in very different aspects.  And both of them apparently enjoy a nice saxophone solo.

The two artists are on completely opposite ends of the genre spectrum; one wears dresses made of meat, rides into the Grammy’s in a giant silicone egg, and writes lyrics that express her views on immigration reform and LGBT issues, while the other records his albums in a converted swimming pool attached to a veterinarians office in Wisconsin, wears plaid button-ups, polo’s and khaki pants, and surprises his fans by popping up on a Kanye West track.  But on both of their new albums, one can hear striking similarities in heavy saxophone solos and synthetic keyboard instrumentals that would play nicely on a mixed tape between Phil Collins’ “One More Night” and Madonna’s “Open Your Heart.”

Lady Gaga’s Born This Way features several 80’s inspired tomes; the track titled “Black Jesus + Amen Fashion” calls to mind Madonna’s interpretation of the black saint in “Like a Virgin,” while its instrumentals might encourage a cameo by Paula Abdul’s MC Skat Kat.  The single “The Edge of Glory,” features a fantastic saxophone solo by the late Clarence Clemons of the E-Street Band.  The video, which you can watch below, is simple by Lady Gaga’s standards, and seems to be inspired by basically every Michael Jackson video made in the 1980’s.

Bon Iver’s self-titled sophomore album is considerably more complex than Born This Way.  The alt-indie group led by Justin Vernon has touches of 80’s noir, blended with the strong folksy sounds we’re accustomed to hearing from the band.  In a surprising mix, Vernon fuses the decidedly 80’s sounds of the keyboard, electric guitar and saxophone with the twang of a country-esque slow jam on the albums closing song “Beth/Rest.”  You can watch the official video for Bon Iver’s first single “Calgary” below.

So this is 2011, what’s with the flashback?

1980’s music rode heavily on the revolution of the industry with the premiere  MTV; heavily digitized and highly visual, the most successful artists of the era left their mark by making loud statements and challenging the mainstream (See: “Like a Virgin”).

Collectively, the US spent much of the 1980’s recovering from a global recession, conservatives idealized American Exceptualism and President Ronald Reagan, technology was rapidly evolving with the creation of portable devices such as the mobile phones and the Sony Walkman, there was ongoing war in Iraq and the US military bombed Libya.

Pop culture is often at its best when it accurately reflects reality, so it’s no surprise that our music, like our history, is repeating itself.  Additionally, many of those who make up pop musics core demographic were born in the 1980’s — like myself — and while obviously well aware of Madonna and Phil Collins, our experience of the decade is limited to second-hand knowledge.  This 80’s sound, the political outcry, the visual/metaphorical messages people once saw only when they tuned into MTV are now disseminated rapidly through the internet.

To many engaged listeners this music isn’t a revival, but revolutionary.