Icona Pop’s glittery, Paris Is Burning-inspired music video for “All Night” has gotten a lot of praise since it premiered last week. A follow-up to their inescapable “I Love It,” the clip finds the electropop duo providing the soundtrack to a dance-off between two houses of New York City’s drag ball scene. Stereogum said the video takes “the song’s kineticism and really does something with it.” Queerty called it a “a brilliant homage” to ballroom culture. The video’s top YouTube comment reads, “This is how you respectfully appreciate a culture that you’re not a part of. Miley Cyrus better take notes.”
It’s easy to see why fans are calling “All Night” an antidote to Cyrus’s controversial “We Can’t Stop” clip. There, Cyrus adopted twerking and aspects of ratchet culture while relegating the black women in her video to roles as orbiting satellites. By contrast, Icona Pop’s Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo take the back seat in “All Night,” granting most of the face time and mic time to the diverse cast of performers, who are identified by name and interviewed in documentary-style segments about the ball scene. In one segment, house member Father Jose talks about getting “turnt,” introducing viewers to the term and explaining its meaning in his community—the type of context absent from Cyrus’s use of the same vocabulary.
Icona Pop and director Dori Oskowitz do deserve credit for their sensitivity, but “All Night” might be a better model of respectful appropriation if it weren’t such a blatant vodka commercial. Product placement and sponsorship are industry norms, so the gratuitous shots of Absolut’s new vodka-wine fusion aren’t especially surprising. But the video, along with recent projects from Jay Z and Fiona Apple, highlights the increasingly noticeable way that commercial patronage often not only funds art these days—it colors it.
In Icona Pop’s case, it’s hard to focus on the video’s supposed empowerment of its subjects when there’s so much evidence its real mission is selling vodka. The YouTube description sets the tone—”ABSOLUT TUNE and Icona Pop are encouraging party-goers everywhere to enjoy ABSOLUT TUNE”—but the interviews and behind-the-scenes footage that are presented as a documentary don’t feel as candid as they’re made out to be. Absolut has based marketing campaigns around queer communities before, having previously partnered with RuPaul’s Drag Race, and the interview segments about family and celebration aren’t far off from the language of Absolut’s promotional-campaign speak.
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In their second full-length album Lonerism, revivalist band Tame Impala taps into the progressive spirit of psychedelic rock, with its bright colors and mind-altering stimulation.
While their music video for “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” does recall The White Stripes’ spiraling “Seven Nation Army” video, its animation team takes the production value one step further. Using over 1,000 individually hand-crafted Plasticine collages, directors Joseph Pelling and Becky Sloan, along with Azusa Nakagawa and Theo Nunn, create a visual template to match the experimental sounds of the ‘60s and ‘70s.The result is a hypnotic montage of superior direction and exquisite detail.
Keita Onishi’s music video is so spellbinding that it evokes a computer screen saver, making the viewer want to gaze mindlessly at the screen until it begins again. The video features “Dynamics of the Subway,” from the experimental Japanese band Haisuinonasa’s first album, Animal Bodies. Each geometric shape matches a musical note, in sync with the score. In the end, the shapes reveal not only a moving train, but the components of the subway system.
The American rapper T-Pain was retweeted 2,400 times when he wrote ”Words cannot even describe how amazing this video is.” Pop stars expressed admiration. Billboard is extolling his commercial viability; Justin Bieber’s manager is allegedly interested. The Wall Street Journal posted ”5 Must-See” response videos. On Monday, a worker at L.A.’s Dodger stadium noticed Park in the stands and played “Gangnam Style” over the stadium P.A. system as excited baseball fans spontaneously reproduced Park’s distinct dance in the video. “I have to admit I’ve watched it about 15 times,” said a CNN anchor. “Of course, no one here in the U.S. has any idea what Psy is rapping about.”
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