21.5.11

Pop goes the music



i was in the gym trying to beef my tinies a bit when i looked up at the never-off tv screen and saw this video glowing.  i tried to look away and check out some of the bulgy animal shanks that come out of peoples sleeves at my gym, but instead was transfixed by this video.   i don't care for the music; i'm not into pop music, really, but the video, directed by Michel Gondry for Kylie Minogue, sucked on me eyeballs like they were mama teats. Its an amazing work on multiple levels.

i suppose the most obvious way the video transfixes is the technical aspect of showing a person appear with themselves over and over, but these days, you expect everything from a toothpaste commercial to the evening news to be swamped by effects, to the point that we're all numb from over-amazement (architecture, anyone?).  i was more interested in the repetitive aspect of the spectacle and how it synched with the nature of pop music in general, such that it seemed as much a commentary on the genre as a product of the artist's PR desires.

The video begins with the camera following Ms Minogue as she leaves the dry cleaners in a very day to day outfit not fit for modern pop music flesh, unknowingly dropping a package just as she leaves, walking through a very working class suburb of Paris through crowds of "normal" people engaged in their own personal dramas and work, from a rider tumbling his motorcycle to a some poor guy getting kicked out of his girl's apartment, to workers posting adverts, a skateboarder, on and on, when the music comes to its refrain and you realize that she has walked a circle and has arrived back at the dry cleaners where she started, though now realizing she dropped her package picks it up, just as another Ms Minogue leaves the dry cleaners, dropping a package, and the song moves on through the refrain, over and over, with minor progressions to the goings on around her, but mostly repetitions and multiplications.

The idea that pop music is the soundtrack to our lives isn't new; this has probably been the case since the invention of radio, but its articulated here in a way that brings the glamor of imagined love and longing into the world of minor collisions and dropped packages.  That the star herself appears without the decor required of fame and glamour (is her outfit at the dry cleaners?) returns the music to its foundation, which is the invisible public that purchases it and attends the shows when they can afford to do so.  That she "completes a circle" is not just a metaphor for the repetitive structure of pop music, but appears as an attempt by the artist to synchronize the making of music to the act of listening to it, in effect to deny its ability to pass time, which ties it to one of pop music's residual characteristics, that being its ability to mark a moment for the generation to which it belonged in the form of nostalgia, a moment both frozen in time and lost.

i've long thought that the secret of pop music was its repetition, and that it was the repetition of elements that allowed songs to plant themselves in our skulls like memories we never had.  You don't have to like a song for it to plant itself; its the constant exposure, the repetition not just of the song itself through the course of the day, but the repetition of catchy hooks and melodies that fish for our attention in an attempt to synch themselves to the other repetitions occurring throughout our minds and bodies.  In Michel Gondry's video repetition is the medium, and the medium is the message.  It's pop music about pop music about us, even as Ms Minogue sings that it's her world she wants (you) to visit, when its really ours.

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