Mariah's perpetual adolescence

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

For a few weeks I’ve had a theory brewing about the pathology behind Mariah Carey’s stubbornly unchanging artistic choices. Because for years now it's been butterflies this, butterflies that, blah blah blah. Escaping mansions, emancipation blah blah blah. Apart from the *bizarre* Touch my body with its talk of 'hunting down' potential youtube-happy lotharios, nothing has changed at all in her artistic vision. And I can quickly prove it with a quick tour through some key Mariah moments:

1. Honey - video: Escaping evil tyrants in suits who've tied her up, diving off the balcony of an island mansion into a pool with high-heels, to then dance with sailors while singing about how she wants their honey all over her. Suggesting that she has more fun with sailors than moguls. Implicit butterfly reference.

2. We belong together - video: Running away from a wedding with a hot guy who’s not the groom, escaping another evil looking mansion, wearing the very same wedding gown worn during her nuptials with Tommy Mottola. They must have adjusted the bust. Themes of escape etc.

3. The Emancipation of Mimi - concept. album: She's emancipated.

4. Butterfly - video: Running into fields in nightdress, emoting. Suggesting escape, freedom, blah blah blah.

While initially I was trying to connect her butterfly fixation to ideas of the "collector", and the various creepy serial killer connotations that holds, now a more modest realisation seems  perfectly clear: the one and only theme Mariah has been exploiting for the last decade +  has been her escape from the apparently evil and controlling Tommy Mottola, Sony CEO and ex-husband. There is absolutely nothing else. She hasn't escaped to anything, she's just always escaping. The way she frames her career is still about this new freedom that she has, but that's all. Nothing else. I could speculate further, but the real reason I wanted to write something about Mariah was so I could share Tim's thoughts on the matter, having captured much more efficiently her essence in this recent communication: 

"I have this idea that when Mariah decides that puppies are no longer puppies and are now 'dogs' she drops them down a large in-sink-erator."


Hot Chip

Monday, January 26, 2009
Just for a change I went to a gig last night that was not being held at Rod Laver arena, to see Hot Chip. And they were very ace. But my god, what an irritating crowd -- I feel like I've been vomited on by 22 year old culture, which is not a nice feeling. A few observations:

1. I am very much older than I was.
2. MGMT are wielding an unfortunate influence on young male culture, with their unkempt Brooklyn boho look fusing in an uncontrolled manner with Australian jock culture. The result is lots of 22 year old guys sporting unwashed mops of hair and bangly things. This seems an extension of Australian jock protocol which demands the display of shell necklaces obtained from family trips to Bali.
3. Young people dance in a strange manner featuring head-jerking and elbow-jabbing.
4. The mixing of Scotch College sports jacket and pseudo-palestinian scarf things is apparently now a "look".

Inconsiderate Kylie fans: Evidence

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Sunday, January 11, 2009

The aforementioned artistic laziness of Sticky & Sweet has made me appreciate KylieX2008 and its flaws. Within Kylie-fan-land, this is a deeply controversial tour, having been talked into some kind of symbol of the "Decadent" end of William Baker's reign (which actually shows no sign of ending). There have been quite valid complaints that many of the show's components are actually reformulated aspects of past tours. But also irritating bitchy-forum talk about how there weren't enough hits/were enough hits, blah blah blah. If I was Kylie Minogue and read her forums, I'd resign purely to escape her bitchy bitchy fans. But anyway, I'm not Kylie Minogue and I should just get over it.

The intent of the show was to move away from the Showgirl phase. No feathers, less old favourites, a more minimal look and sound - a move back to the now hallowed Fever era and its comparatively bold simplicity. This was an exciting shift because I and her *better* fans have always thought K is at her best when she's pushing the envelope and isn't in career retreat mode. (Although interestingly this was a career retreat of sorts, since X has sold well below expectations. So well done for not pulling out the feathers.) 

But the centrepiece of this stark simplicity - her giant, stark and simple stage - was, for me at least, part of the reason the show failed to connect. The stage was a monster. Basically a giant light box with a massive slanted video screen floor, and movable video curtains that could shift around the stage creating various effects and moods. No steps, no catwalk, no giant rotating things. Just Kylie standing in a box, and occasionally looking lost in it. While I can appreciate the stark minimalism, I notice that in each show my attention often wandered to the mechanics of the stage - how do the light curtains move?  Where's that light coming from? Where did that giant skull come from? How is it rigged up?

Another mini-issue for me was that lots of the show's best moments were kind of, if you think about, rejigs of past best moments. The entrance as a kind of cyborg-type-thing was like Fever's "Kyborg" rising from the stage; geisha stuff has been done before; elements of Body Language Live ran through it, and I'm sick of her closing with I Should Be So Lucky. But when it was pushing new ground I was amazed. Particularly the skull section, with its contrasting of gorgeous electronic imagery, a glitter skull and, bizarrely, Communist chic. Like every Kylie moment that *really* grabs me, it eluded to themes much darker than it actually revealed, particularly in the songs where that skull was just sitting there, overshadowing everything. This is the peculiar appeal of K: we never get to see what's going on inside, which means that whenever we get the slightest hint of the dark, the complex and the personal, it can wield a lot of power.

But on some level I remained disconnected. I can appreciate that artistically this was a much superior show to Madge's  -- stylish theatre compared to a casino extravaganza. I still don't know what I think of it. I think it was great, if flawed. But I also think that there's been no real shift in her art (yes I said it) since KylieFever. Which makes me wonder what she'd be like sans William Baker? Now I'm sounding like a forum bitch, but it's just a thought.

And speaking of bitches, here's a shout out to the lovely ladies who decided to spoil my view, and the views of all those behind me, with their grotesque "showgirl headdresses", which they refused to take off because they were "very expensive". Nice.

2008 part one: Sticky & Sweet

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Look at those massive, massive cheeks!

I've been neglecting things here lately because, mostly, I've been slave to feelings of *I should be doing something more important*, even if not actually doing so. This means I've missed the perfunctory 2008 wrap-up post. So over the next few weeks I'll try to cover the key points, at least. These are: Madonna's Sticky & Sweet tour and Kyliex2008, both of which my meandering search-for-meaning activities managed to get me to last year (or in Kylie's case, 3 times). So to get the ball rolling, here's my take on Sticky & Sweet, a profoundly disappointing tour.

But I should be honest. My perception of Sticky & Sweet is skewed in two ways. Firstly, by the absolute wonder of the Confessions tour, and secondly, Madge's ill-fated decision to purchase slightly too large and distracting cheek implants. This means that, for me at least, the whole show is infused with a sense of decay, decline, tragic-fending-off-ageing-but-failing, and various other negative associations. But also, aesthetically, the show just wasn't very good.

Whereas Confessions seemed like a holistically conceived and realised masterpiece (and I'm not exaggerating), Sticky seemed slightly av. As in the kind of show you might get from Janet Jackson or Xtina. But not a Madonna masterpiece. Here are some of the problems:

1. Awful costumes that accentuated Madge's gruesome and ghoulish new look.
2. Crass lighting and visual imagery that seemed cheap and cheerful.
3. Too much bodgy guitar. Look, we know you can't really play guitar, so if you need a rest just do what every other superstar does and keep the crowd in a holding pattern with a "dance" interlude while you take a break.
4. A bizarre "gypsy" interlude (when in fact, Madge seemed to be sitting on floor cushions, perhaps also taking a little mini-break)
5. A profound sense of soullessness and lack of joy.
6. The fact that Hard Candy is just not that good. And no Stuart Price.

While, yes, she can still dance, I was left with the impression that this was some kind of tipping point moment on the way to a more Cher-like freak show era. And yes, a lot of this is about age. Watching Confessions in 2005,  it really did seem like Madge had valiantly thwarted the ageing process. Not just because she had a more subtle face lift at the time (presumably), but also because she really did seem to be at the top of her game in every aspect. But now there's the sense that yes, she's human, and that also, for the moment at least, she's lost her way. Looking forward to the comeback. 

Her sugar is RAW.