Voyou Désœuvré

What is it about Kesha that disorients people’s critical faculties? I suppose the Uffie comparisons sort of make sense, inasmuch as they’re both young women sort-of-rapping over electro-ish beats (the difference being that Kesha has funny lyrics and tunes). The same logic I suppose might lead to the Lady Gaga comparison’s, too, although the connection here is much more tenuous. The closest comparing the two might get to illuminating might be a SATs style analogy: Gaga is to New York as Kesha is to Los Angeles; the combination of a party-trash aesthetic and naive, heart-on-the-sleeve self-psychologizing is endearingly Californian. The comparison that’s most bizarre, though, is the suggestion that “Tik Tok” is a rip-off of Kylie’s “Love at First Sight”; well, the riff has a kind-of similar rhythm and contains a few of the same notes.

More than the desperate reaching for comparisons, though, I’m surprised by the vitriol of some of the reviews of Kesha’s album. I wonder if, say, some of the Amazon reviews aren’t a kind of rockist return of the repressed. Perhaps this is the truth of the Lady Gaga comparisons: a displacement of the criticisms of inauthenticity or shallowness that are so often leveled at pop artists, which people however feel somewhat uncomfortable leveling at the enthusiastically supported Gaga. Of course, Kesha isn’t anything like as interesting as Gaga, but her record is generally quite entertaining, especially the slightly 8-bit “Kiss N Tell,” and the Daphne and Celeste-esque “D.I.N.O.S.A.U.R.”

I wonder if part of the reason for the Gaga comparison is the paucity of American pop music to compare to. Or, rather, the disavowal of the relevant pop music, the R&B and hip-hop which Kesha’s electro-ey beats were surely influenced by. If you want a comparison, a  much better one would be Menya, though Menya are significantly better than Kesha (their funny filthy tracks are filthier and funnier, and their introspective tracks more affecting). Also, it’s clearly a sign that I’ve been reading too much Hegel that Kesha singing “I am in love/with what we are/not what we should be” makes me think of the preface to the Philosophy of Right.

Flying back from England after Christmas, I got to enjoy the fruits of the US state’s insane institutional paranoia, as the airport staff opened everyone’s bag and patted everyone down before letting us on the plane (flying from the US, I of course had no such problem, as the TSA is blissfully unconcerned about what someone might do on a plane flying over Canada). It’s an interesting illustration of the irrationality of security policy, as this supposed need for greater security measures is the exact opposite of what the TSA should have concluded from the failure of the Christmas Day pants-bombing attempt. The key point here is that the attempt failed: the evidence we have shows that it’s really hard to smuggle a usable bomb onto a plane in your pants. The same is true of the failed shoe-bombing and the failed small-bottles-of-liquid bombing. What these show is that there’s no need to get everyone to take off their shoes, or throw away their bottles of water: the security measures that were in place before these attempts were evidently sufficient to foil such attempts, because the attempts were actually foiled. Every failed terrorist plot is evidence that we have plenty of security, and should be taken as an opportunity to consider whether we can’t actually get by with a bit less.

The response to the failed pants bomb has at least provoked a bit of a backlash, although the focus on the privacy violations of the pants-scanning machines strikes me as misconceived. Read more↴

Recent posts at Object Oriented Philosophy and Larval Subjects made me think it’s worth disentangling a number of different ways in which objects could be thought to be “real.” First would be to maintain that objects cannot be reduced to their components, either physical or sensory (that is, there really is a chair over there, not just an aggregate of atoms or sense-perceptions). Second would be maintain that these objects exist independently of human minds, knowledge or perception. Third, this could be expanded to get away from a human/object binary, and so maintain that objects are independent of other objects: that in each interaction of an object with something else, there is something in that object over and above what is involved in that interaction. Fourth, one could universalize this position, saying that, not only is an object never completely involved in any particular relation, but that objects are withdrawn from all relations, that their core being is not involved in any relations at all.

Harman, I think, believes a theory must contain all these elements to genuinely count as a realism about objects; the reason I think it’s interesting to disentangle them is that I’m not immediately grabbed by the object-oriented part of object oriented philosophy. Read more↴

My favorite of the Lady GaGa GIFs that are an index of her internet popularity is one in which she appears as a creepy Elizabeth-Taylor-as-Cleopatra Recent twitter discussion of Lady GaGa, sparked by this article in the New Statesman, revealed quite a lot of ambivalence about her. I, on the other hand, at some point last year stopped being ambivalent: the young homosexuals of the internet are, in this case, quite right in their enthusiasm. There’s certainly something rather obvious about her sort-of-vaguely-Warhol-gesturing vision of pop as spectacle, but I’m increasingly less concerned by this, although whether this is because she has genuinely transcended these influences, or because I’ve simply decided that this doesn’t matter, I’m not sure. Read more↴

Thinking some more about the decade just ended, one thing seems clear: Girls Aloud were the band of the decade; indeed, I can’t think of any other group that’s even a contender. Well, as long as by “band of the decade” we mean, if not the best band of the decade, the band that encapsulated the most positive aspects of the decade. If “band of the decade” simply means the band most symptomatic of the decade, of course a much more depressing candidate appears: U2. U2 are certainly the worst band in recent memory, and I think are strong contenders for worst group in the history of popular music (reading Phonogram recently reminded me of the existence of Heavy Stereo and Northern Uproar, onetime bywords for terribleness; but, in part for that very reason, they don’t approach the apocalyptic awfulness of U2)

Thinking about what might be an album of the decade, Read more↴

I’ve recently seen various “album of the decade” lists; the first I think I saw, and certainly the worst, was the NME’s. Still, the terribleness of that list does have the benefit of honesty—no-one could possibly argue on the basis of that list that the first decade of the twenty-first century was anything other than “a bloody awful decade for popular music.” The existence of these various lists did encourage me to look back at what had actually happened, musically, in the decade. One interesting thing I discovered is how out of sync the internal chronology of my memory is with actual linear time; did Supreme Clientele really come out only a year before Is This It? The former seems to come from a now impossibly distant past, while the latter is still all too present.

The other thing that occurred to me is that this past decade has been full of the strange deaths of pop genres. Read more↴