It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these! So there’s lots that I’ve been listening to, reading, and watching.
Chances are high that you’ve already heard Gotye’s song “Somebody that I Used to Know” or possibly even its parodies “Some Star Wars that I Used to Know” or “Some Study That I Used to Know“. The original video is unique and compelling, and the style ripe for copying into a parody. I, personally, cannot get enough. The rest of Gotye’s album “Making Mirrors” is fantastic. Lots of unique sounds, varying from chill and possibly depressing to bouncy and overly cheerful. Which pretty much describes my moods, so I love it! “State of the Art” uses auto-tune masterfully, as it is a song about bringing home some fancy-pants keyboard thingy (I’m sure there’s a professional name for whatever electronic music artists use, but I don’t have time to look it up), and how it is a “state of the art home entertainment system”. I love this album for the fact that it has a song in 6/8 time, which as a dancer is great. It’s really difficult to find songs in 3/4 or 6/8 to use in modern class for leg swings. I think that Gotye appeals to a wide range of tastes, so even if you’re not sure electronic music is for you, I’d still say it’s worth a listen. Bonus video: Shanghai choreographer (hip-hop) Anthony Lee: “Somebody that I Used to Know” (Apologies for the ads on Youku!)
2. Lana del Rey
One of my friends recommended this sultry songstress to me, and ever since downloading the album I’ve had mixed feelings. First off, I love her voice. Absolutely love her voice. Whatever I say below, remember, I love her voice. Next, the music. The music is pretty good. I think the best word to describe it is “cinematic”. Lana does things BIG. Sweeping strings and heavy beats with her crooning over the top creates pictures in your mind as you listen. That’s alright, I guess.
Now on to the things that bug me. First off, the shouty guy. Practically every track has a sound clip of this guy shouting “Hey” or “Yeah” inserted on the off-beat. Sometimes it’s in three, for example “versy words versy words -‘ey-‘ey-‘ey/versy words versy words…” I like it, it’s interesting, but I don’t understand why it has to be in every track. You could argue it gives continuity to the album, but at the end of the day, it’s repetitive. Which brings me to the thing that bugs me the most about this album: the words. I know you can’t tell artists what to sing about; everyone has their story, and it’s their prerogative to sing about it. But what bugs me about Lana is that I’m not sure whether she’s brilliant or stupid. For one, her rhyming schemes. It’s common for her to pair words that don’t quite rhyme unless you shift the pronunciation, and to repeat the same word to make a rhyme.
Another thing is that some of her concepts just don’t make sense, and I’m not sure if she does it on purpose to give the phrase depth/double meaning, or if she’s just not thinking. Examples: “Shining like lightning”, “Sweet like cinnamon”, “Sweet like vanilla is”. Lightning only shines for a second; is she saying that the popularity of the girl in the song is ephemeral, or is she trying to say that the girl shines, and couldn’t think of something better that fit the rhyming scheme? And as for the other two, cinnamon and vanilla are not sweet on their own. So is she saying her fame is looks sweet but is actually bitter? Or does she not realise that things flavoured with cinnamon and vanilla also have to have sugar added to become sweet?
The content of the songs is also rather removed from my realm of experience. Lana basically is/wants to portray herself as the bad girl who skipped class and hung out with older men drinking, gambling, etc. She falls deeply in love and cannot live without her man, saying that “…what makes us girls (is) we don’t stick together ‘cos we put love first”. This is just not me.
I just don’t know. In the end, the thing about Lana del Rey’s “Born to Die” is this: I love the beats, I love the cinematic sound, and I love her voice. So if I just pretend I don’t understand English, I can really enjoy the album! I also do really respect the continuity of the album. There is a story in the songs, and the sound is consistent. That’s a basic requirement for a good album, I’d say. I’ve had “Summertime Sadness” and “Video Games” on repeat, so she must be doing something right…
3. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
I know this post is getting long, and I know there’s boatloads to be said about this film, but I’ll try to keep it short.
I read the book back when I was a teenager, and hadn’t had time/opportunity (bonus fact: there’s a word in Chinese 时机 “shiji” that means time-based opportunity) until now to watch Stanley Kubrick’s film version. I’m a fan of Mr Kubrick’s work; his films are always different from your typical Hollywood flick, experimental and edgy. Of course, when you watch the science fiction ones now, despite being science fiction–or perhaps especially because they are science fiction–they come off as incredibly dated. “A Clockwork Orange”‘s set design and wardrobe just looked so oddly sixties/seventies… But I was willing to accept this as the book was written in 1962, thus Kubrick’s portrayal is probably very close to how the author pictured everything looking.
Which is funny, because at first, it wasn’t at all how I had pictured it looking or sounding. But then I realised what I had been missing when I was reading the book: an understanding of British culture, and being from the sixties. So as I watched Alex’s story unfold, I felt a deeper appreciation for the book. Watching it on screen filled in gaps, details that I had skipped through as I read, and controlled the pace of the story-telling. I remember reading so excitedly through the end of the book that I was actually pretty confused as to what actually happened in the end. And actually, coming back to this story after having read “The Hunger Games” trilogy (dammit, I have to review those too sometime!) was quite interesting, as Alex, like Katniss, while being the main character of the story, is nonetheless not in full control of the events that unfold around him, and is made into a government pawn. Lastly, after the movie ended, my language-nerd came out, and I spent about an hour or so looking at the Nadsat dictionary on Wikipedia, marveling at the linguistic artistry of the teen slang created by author Anthony Burgess to be used in the book.
Alright, I suppose that’s enough for now!