Tag Archives: music video

“Hymn for the Weekend”: Appreciation, Appropriation, and the Exotic Black Woman

I don’t know about you, but I can’t stop listening to “Hymn for the Weekend” on repeat.

However, before I had even listened to Chris Martin and Queen Bey meld their voices in a divine mesh of harmonies, I was reading about it on Tumblr.

Cultural Appreciation vs. Appropriation

The first thing I heard about the video was that it had some pretty rampant cultural appropriation. Since there have been a number of music videos and performances accused of cultural appropriation over the last few years, I wasn’t too surprised to hear about “Hymn for the Weekend” being added to the list.

The video quickly split viewers into two groups, those who considered it cultural appropriation, and those who appreciated the video’s focus on Indian culture. The clip below highlights a few of the key elements that have been discussed and criticized.

This discussion is tricky for a variety of reasons. For example, there is a time and place when a white person can wear Indian clothing and accessories without coming off as disrespectful. In some cases, it’s actually much more respectful to embrace local dress customs than to ignore them.

There are even music videos where diverse customs and styles have been featured without any backlash about appropriation.

This debate can also seem confusing when Indian fans, or fans with Indian heritage, don’t seem to be bothered by the video’s representation of their culture.

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2014’s Cultural Battleground – Evan’s Account

EDITOR’S NOTE: We end this year by each taking a look back and picking our five best posts, explaining both their importance to us and to the world we currently live in.  Clicking the banner images will link you to each post, so as 2014 comes to a close join us in remembering how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go.

kissingbannerI chose to sort these posts in the order they were published, so we start things off on a very personal note, one which set the tone for many of the others I wrote in 2014. Our individual choices regarding how we approach physical intimacy can and should differ, and here I thought “out loud” with my fingertips, recording how exactly I got to where I am today.

My stance had its pros and cons weighed, both those other people may see and the ones that I do personally. In exploring them I covered how many other Christians view the act of kissing, used a number of really fantastic gifs, and even embedded a poll [the most responded to on the site] which asked readers which direction I should take from this point onward. No, it had no real effect my personal life choices. Yes, it actually is a dead even 50-50 split at the time of this writing.

2musicvideosbannerIf you had told me at any point during the year that I would be writing not one, but two analyses of music videos in the very same month I would not have believed you [here’s the other one]. I also would not have been able to guess that the one discussing both Ingrid Michaelson and Jennifer Lopez’s songs would be my personal favourite of 2014.

Sexism continues to be a problem, in popular music especially, and both artists sought to upend how men and women are normally portrayed in the medium of music videos. Unfortunately the results appear to merely perpetuate the status quo [in Lopez’s case] or miss the point entirely by resorting to cross dressing [in Michaelson’s] and likewise continuing to depict the female subjects much more sexily than the male ones. If it’s the thought that counts then consider both successful, but if we want to move anywhere beyond that they’re severely lacking.

posterchildwhiteprivilegebannerI know this post had to make my list because just thinking about it continues to make me angry. No, it’s not the clickbaity title of the original article, it’s the place from which the writer, Tal Fortgang, addresses all those who dare ask him to “check his privilege”.

My breakdown started before Fortgang’s own open letter, choosing to first pick apart the introduction written by The College Fix associate editor Jennifer Kabbany. It ended with a close analysis of his argument that being both White and male in the United States of America, born to Caucasian parents born to Caucasian parents, has afforded him no advantages in life [FUN FACT: it has].

The number of friends [and I use the term loosely] who I saw sharing this on Facebook drove me to write a counterpoint, and one that I only wish more people could have read. Being told to “check your privilege” should never result in a person writing 1,300 words about why they shouldn’t have to, it should lead them to ask themselves what they just did that was insensitive or wrong.

orderupbannerThis post isn’t the first one to open up with a short work of fiction to prove a point, and come the end of this year it isn’t even the first parable [a feature I may consider adding], but it is a genuine depiction of how Asian and Asian-American viewers feel when being presented with much of today’s pop culture.

Big Hero 6 was a film that should have, given the original source material, starred an all-Japanese cast. Instead we were presented with characters bearing a wide ethnic range not one of which was full-blooded Japanese. As Hollywood and much of the rest of the entertainment industry tunes in to their increasingly more diverse audience choices will be made, and some that will be made to, ostensibly, appeal to more people will instead disappoint those who it should have reached out to in the first place.

After seeing the film for myself I had more hard evidence to back up my original thoughts, but at the end of the day this was an animated children’s movie that could have shone a genuine, earnest light on an actual, single corner of the world and decided not to for the sake of what we’ll call “accessibility”.

johnchobannerHow we view ourselves has so much to do with what we see of ourselves in the media, and that’s just as true when it comes to thoughts of attractiveness as anything else. While pop culture’s depiction of women and how it has impacted the self-esteem of females both young and old the world over has taken centre stage in this particular discussion, and for good reason, what’s often skipped over is how racial minorities are in the exact same boat.

I trace my feelings of aesthetic inadequacy back to a conversation I had several years ago and draw it to the present, where my favourite new sitcom of 2014 a) stars an Asian-American male as the romantic lead and b) has been cancelled. The latter not withstanding, Selfie was more than just hilarious [and it was], it introduced on national TV the concept of Asian men actually being desirable, and it deserves all the credit in the world for that.

The 2014 Culture Wars were, for me, extremely personal. That’s never more apparent than when I picked apart my stance on locking lips, but it also cropped up in my criticism of one of my favourite musical artists. How every one of us chooses to process the world we live in is our own little foray into the conflict this blog takes its title from, and it’s often a conflict in more ways than one.

It falls to every one of us to field our intellectual and emotional reactions, whether it’s to a “Poster Child for White Privilege” or an animated children’s movie that we expected that much more from. This year I decided to let my feelings steer me towards the aspects of culture that directly affected my own life. Who I am as a male Christian Asian-Canadian now-24-year-old provides me with a perspective that you may not share, but my hope is that my observations resonate with you nonetheless.

This year I decided to voice how our culture was impacting me, and it’s an activity that I hope I, and every one of you, will do much more of in 2015.


The Context and Cultural Appropriation of Avril Lavigne’s “Hello Kitty” Music Video

To begin with, I’m not the most unbiased person to be writing about this. “Sk8ter Boi” came out when I was attending a Canadian public school for the first time, and it had a fairly indelible effect on me. My being a fan of Avril Lavigne extended out into high school, and I can still remembering a friend getting me Let Go for my fourteenth birthday. As far as I’m concerned, some of her stuff continues to hold up.

Like most people I liked Under My Skin a fair amount, but wasn’t a huge fan of The Best Damn Thing. Watching the punk-pop star cavort around to the infectious beat felt wrong, like this was some sort of betrayal of who she started as. Of course, people change, and I eventually came around to tracks like “Hot” and “What the Hell”.

Years passed, and eventually she fell off my radar. I noted when she and Deryck Whibley of Sum 41 got a divorce and gawked at her marriage to the widely reviled Chad Kroeger of Nickelback. They recorded a song together and I thought not much of it.

Then I woke up one morning and signed online to a barrage of accusations leveled against her with “racist!” being the common denominator among them. Being fairly invested in this entire thing [as a lapsed Avril Lavigne fan and a person in staunch opposition to racism in any form] I of course had to check out the “Hello Kitty” music video post-haste. I do want to inform you all that I’ve had to watch it several times for the writing of this post and have not enjoyed it once.

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2 Music Videos That Flipped The Sexual Script [And Failed]

People have been flipping gender roles and sexual scripts for longer back than I care to research. It’s as simple as a sitcom depicting a wife coming back from a long day’s work and her husband meeting her with a pair of slippers and the evening paper. “This doesn’t match up with life as we know it to be!” the audience thinks. They shake their heads, they laugh, they go on with their lives.

Since then we’ve arguably become more open-minded, largely due to pop culture that communicates that women can in fact have professional careers, men can be sentimental and form embarrassingly close relationships with one another, et cetera. That obviously doesn’t mean that there aren’t certain areas that overall continue to be stuck in trends others are making moves to abandon. Take for example, an art form I’ve barely if ever discussed: music videos. Continue reading

Flo Rida ft. White Girls (Sort Of)

In 2009 rapper Flo Rida released his single “Right Round,” a song which heavily sampled Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” in its hook. On top of shooting to number one on the charts in just three weeks, the track also featured Ke$ha on guest vocals. The following is the music video for the song:

You may notice that Ke$ha, an artist known for being Caucasian, blonde, and very into glitter does not appear in the video. Adding apparent insult to injury, she was only credited for her part outside of the US. To slightly amend the former, the artist said in an interview with Esquire Magazine that “[Flo Rida’s team] wanted me in the video, and I said, ‘Nah, I want to make my own name for myself.'”

Just today I was watching MuchMusic and saw a video for one of Flo Rida’s newer singles, “Wild Ones.” It features Australian recording artist Sia, whose presence on the track received a good amount of attention. Billboard.com described her as having a “bell-clear, campfire voice,” and noted her appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 was a deserved one. Below is the music video for that song:

The woman mouthing the lyrics to the song and accompanying Flo Rida is not Sia, but actually model Analicia Chaves. The implication in both this video and the last is that the artist whose vocals are featured are both a) present, and b) Black non-white [Chaves is Portuguese/Cape Verdean]. When “Right Round” was released everyone was asking themselves who Ke$ha was, and many assumed that she was simply the woman in the video.

I don’t believe that there’s any sort of racial conspiracy going on here, and the quirky similarity I noticed is more than likely only that. At this point neither Ke$ha nor Sia are doing badly for themselves, so it hasn’t harmed their image in the least. Still, it’s interesting to think about the fact that this has cropped up twice with the same rapper. If it happens a third time I think we’ll all know something’s up.

Decemberists, Infinite Jest, and Michael Schur Unite (and there was much rejoicing)

The Decemberist’s latest music video (for Calamity Song, from their most recent album The King is Dead) portrayed a scene from David Foster Wallace’s mammoth novel Infinite Jest, and the probability that somewhere within 100 yards of you a humanities major is freaking out increased by about 600%.

And this is awesome not only because 1) The Decemberists are awesome and 2) Infinite Jest is awesome, both of which reasons would be plenty justification for awesomeness, but it’s awesome because Infinite Jest is so huge and complicated and a-linear and full of bizarre details that it seems only slightly short of a miracle than anyone would even be able to succesfully portray in film just one scene from the novel, and yet Michael Schur (known for writing for SNL, The Office, and Parks and Recreation) managed to have the scene play out almost exactly as I imagined it – which I understand is a hideously biased judgement but I really only have my own imagination to go by, and perhaps the fact that film adaptations of writing almost never do that for me bolster the impressiveness of my statement.

The scene fromt the book, by the way, was brilliantly and kind of impressively chosen too – it shows the students at a tennis academy playing Eschaton, which is a ludicrously complicated game involving a mentally-projected map of the world on a tennis court, socks and tshirts representing different strategic targets, tennis balls (lobbed by each country) representing nuclear bombs, and insane algorithms (that David Foster Wallace all but teaches you in the book) to determine the damage and population loss of each hit. Colin Meloy sitting in the place of Michael Pemulis, one of the main characters of the book, with his characteristic sailor’s hat, is weirdly perfect. Schur’s attention to details from the novel made the video, I think, bringing yelps of excitement from readers of the book seeing a scene from possibly the most bizarre and un-movie-able piece of fiction they’ve read portrayed (almost) perfectly on film, but also allowing people who haven’t read the book to still understand what’s going on.

So, in summary, props to The Decemberists for being awesome, postmortem props to David Foster Wallace for being brilliant, and mad props to Michael Schur for creating a visual reality out of a piece of something as abstract and wonderful as Infinite Jest.