I watched this video for 6 hours today.
I'm kind of famous for getting sucked in to these hours-long deep dives into the lives of famous recording artists, like The Civil Wars. And Sia. And The Head and the Heart. And David Bowie.
It's weird because there are plenty of other artists that I LOVE, some even more so in terms of how often I listen; though I never seem to go down this spiral with them. It usually hits me like lightning. I could be happily Facebook stalking and all of a sudden wham! I'm reading article after article on this one artist getting a sense of their entire life story, career highlights, dips, mishaps and all -- their whole aura.
With Sia, what got me was this article on how her record, "This is Acting," is full of songs that were originally written for other stars. "Cheap Thrills" was given to Rihanna and Adele recorded a version of "Bird Set Free" that later wasn't included on Adele's albums, so Sia kept it for herself. I was completely enthralled by the descriptions of her songwriting process and collaboration style, and her journey as she made the reluctant crossover to pop. How she really feels about most of these songs and pop music in general (hint: not great).
With The Head and The Heart, it hit me after listening to them for 10 days in Denver while visiting two dear friends who loved them. We all knew and loved this song -- which, for me, was because it was once played while lounging around with an ex lover who'd diagnosed me well --- "I bet you'll love this song," he said; right after he'd proclaimed "You're like the Garden State soundtrack incarnate." But when I started getting into The Head and the Heart, I was struck by the development of their group dynamic as they reached higher levels of fame, and how their roles pan out on stage when you watch them sing.
Jonathan Russell is clearly the somewhat anal member with the highest standards but his sincerity is keeping the group's ambitions and musical quality together. Then there's Charity Rose who comes across as a bit of a keep-to-yourself yet somehow-still-edgy sweetheart as the only woman in the band. And then there's Josiah who ended up with a classic case of celebrity-hood plus acquired addictions and sat a few tours out. When I saw them live, Matt Gervais was filling in for Josiah and you could just sense his newness to the stage. He had that palpable desire to engage (overly) with the audience, like "look at me!! I'm singing to a crowd!" They've evolved a lot from the time of throwing together a record with a mashup of sounds, to the now more commercial Warner Bros album; where all of the songs start with a chord progression that ever so smoothly syncs with where the last song left off (clever).
You could say it's almost like they find me. With David Bowie the obsession came when I, at the last minute, went as him for Halloween. It clicked when I put on an outfit I already had in my closet that was perfect for him. Next thing you know, I'm announcing "I think David Bowie is my spirit animal!" and prancing around the living room for my roommates' approval. Next thing after that, I'm buying books all over New York City just because they have his name in the title -- like "David Bowie Made Me Gay" which I'm ploughing through now.
Today, in my Madonna moment, I spent the majority of my ride from Port Authority to Brooklyn like -- damn, this woman is SEXUAL -- and half covering my phone as I watched the music video for "Music" (Hey Mr. DJ, put a record on), hoping to the heavens that the people squished exceedingly close to me weren't looking over my shoulder too often. And then I realized, wait -- yes -- that was kind of her thing forever. She has an album titled "Erotica," and a coffee table book titled "Sex." Hell-o!
Madonna is basically the female David Bowie. His whole thing was freedom from perceived self-constraints and consistent recreation of his identity; allowing for the weird, the creative, and the adventurous among us to really thrive under his influence. She's always pushed society's sexual buttons and said many a risquée thing on an interview, with little regard to the consequences....like getting songs banned around the globe and being knocked from MTV....and having to reform her image over and over to remain successful. Madonna is ever the chameleon; which I find both commendable in and of itself, but also to be the only true way she could sustain her success over SUCH A LONG period of time. DECADES. Same with Bowie.
The two of them have pushed so many of our cultural boundaries, and have become both beloved and despised by so many. Simply because they lack the prescribed definitions of identity that we typically live by. There's such a contention around this undying love of pop music and pop stars (even Sia's got it and she's in it!), but it's hard to deny the iconic possibilities - especially as they are both as exceptional and experimental visually as they are vocally, if not even more so talented as visual performers! You can't not watch.
Madonna's Hung Up video is basically one of life's ultimate dance pop phenomenons, especially with Madonna flaunting her bodysuit even as she creeps up in age. It's now this week's favorite daydream of mine -- to think about dancing in a video like that. I couldn't help but notice someone in the YouTube comments shouting "Madonna, Celine Dion, and Queen Bey should go on tour together!" Um, yes please!
In the meantime, who wants to come over and create our own rendition?