Tuesday, September 11, 2007

WALKING ON WATER 3

Commonly, you see the focus of demonstration skills eclipsing the ostensible principle skill - and, in the originally cited example of the guitar soloist, although extraordinarily talented showmen like Eddie Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix might have a lot to answer for, you can't really blame them for the inevitable apists, epigones, and other absurdist tailchasers that followed in their footsteps.

The widespread criticism of Britney Spears' recent performance at this year's MTV Awards also highlights this. Note that nearly all of the sniping comments refer to her demonstration skills - that is, her dancing, her looks, her lipsyncing (the performers to receive good press get complimented on those very same ephemera). Give the girl a fucking break - it's not like her songs are better or worse than anyone else's. Maybe even a bit better.

Of course, at this MTV level, the basic skill of singing a song (let alone writing) was forgotten about a long time ago. It also reminds me of Chris Morris's wonderful The Day Today series that satirised TV news' addiction to endless overblown computer graphics and camera edits that end up superseding the news reporting itself. The Day Today hit its target so unerringly and so accurately that it's hard to watch the real thing nowadays without a sense of profound cynicism.

To me, demonstration skills are absolutely fine, and moreover useful, as long as the original and main purpose isn't lost. The intent.

17 comments:

Thomas Transparent said...

I can't really comment on Britney's recent blow-up, but I'm all too aware of the ongoing trend of packaging "news" as a demented lightspeed, bells-and-whistles form of "current events-related entertainment."

Fox News, the flagship of this enterprise, won that court case freeing them of their obligation to actually report things truthfully, so now they have carte blanche to bury their opinion-presented-as-fact bleatings in an onslaught of clever audiovisual effects. I think Geraldo Rivera a.k.a Jerry Rivers in Times Square (at the bottom of this page- truly 'kicks off' at about the 2:50 mark) is a perfectly laughable example of news media demonstration skill with no discernible purpose.

Of course, judging by the barbarians at the gate laying siege to Geraldo's clever and "exotic" broadcast set, growing numbers seem to be demanding a return to substantial information instead of Trinitron hijinks and non-stories about soliciting bathroom sex and women being booted off of flights for wearing 'hot' dresses.

William Bennett said...

fun to watch that Geraldo clip, Thomas, I'd only seen a short one the 9/11 protesters took where GR gives them the finger off-camera

in Fox's case, unpalatable a news channel though it undoubtedly may be, you could argue, here in this context, that at least they are mindful of the focus of their intent; I think Chris Morris' satirises the demonstration skills of TV news production supplanting the original intent (the triumph of design over content, if you like - compare to the advertising industry)

by the way, I believe that it's not in fact true that Geraldo's name was ever 'Jerry Rivers'

Thomas Transparent said...

His real name *is* Geraldo? I was sure, for a while, that it was Jerry Rivers- in the famous 'skinhead' episode where his nose is broken, one of the more vocal skins calls him by this name and he becomes visibly upset, claiming "don't test me" etc., so I assumed he was upset at having been 'outed' rather than just that someone was making fun of him. You learn something new every day!

cemenTIMental said...

Britney as 9/11:
http://rigint.blogspot.com/2007/09/no-one-saw-carny-go.html

lansig_ said...

This one is for you, William:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHmvkRoEowc

lansig_ said...

Have you checked out Morris' other work? I prefer Brass Eye to Day Today. Though I sometimes wonder about the Paedophiles episode. Morris attended an exclusive all boys school which was marred by some kind of child sex scandal in the 90s - and Morris was asked to stand as a witness in court, since he seemed to have some knowledge of what had taken place. He refused to stand, however.

lansig_ said...

Actually, just doing some Googling around, this explains what happened in relation to why Morris made the episode and what took place. It is more complicated than my above post conveys..

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/screen/story/0,6903,532307,00.html

Richo said...

I think the Paedophiles episode is actually a landmark slice of satire guaranteed not to be usurped for years to come. The very fact it created a huge furore just before it was originally broadcast and then generated a 'lynch mob'-type response from the tabloid press the day after only went on to compound everything it set out to achieve. Apart from the weak 'Nathan Barley' (a valid stab at the trust-funded Hoxton/Brighton set that could've been condensed to 6 minutes rather than spread over 6 episodes), Morris has been both hard to fault and the greatest reason to celebrate comedy's sharper edges for a considerable while. And his satirising of the graphics and effects employed by certain TV news teams amounts to a mere facet of his many skills. Good on him, I reckon...!

Alexander said...

Such arguments are best applied to people who are actually responsible for their music in more than just a legal sense. It seems perfectly appropriate that reviews of her performances should be comprised of assessments of her choreography, delivery, etc. when the music itself is the work of a third party who goes largely unnamed. If the music needs remarking upon then it would seem right to include an additional paragraph thanking the producers, lyricists, the guy that worked the autotuner... I think that'd be fair. It'd be a fine acknowledgement, actually, to the quality of the music and the fact that a lot of people had been let down by the multimillionaire employed to front their work.

So empty, mimed performances are out in the open now. That's good. Now pop music is a parody of what it was 20 years ago, and to illustrate that we care more about the quality of the mime than the music. It's honest in a half sad, half funny kind of way.

If the press is guilty of anything here it isn't the way they criticise the performances of Britney or anyone else. Those people's jobs are to stand up and perform, that's their public image, public response is a natural result. Sometimes it's misappropriated but it has been requested. What's not okay is dogging them day and night, publishing story after story about their private lives, relationships, drug use, alcohol use, addictions, rehabilitation - all things that by and large won't get you crucified if you're not a celebrity. Hell, the guy who writes the article probably needs a cocktail of drugs just to keep on chasing whatever millionaire he's slamming for their so-called amoral activities. The fact that Britney has failed spectacularly at doing her actual job is perfectly kosher stuff if your job is publishing entertainment stories. Who she's sleeping with and when she takes a shit isn't.

Sarah Trotsky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richo said...

Am I the only one here who doesn't even have time spare for the likes of Britney...? Much as it's possibly not a completely bad thing to keep one eye wryly planted on pop's heavily laminated landscape, if only to monitor the shifts to even greater tedium taking place, there's simply not enough time for the truly decent stuff around (whether from now or from the recent past).

_Black_Acrylic said...

Richo I agree with you 100% on this. Like most people, I do engage with the media circus... but at what price? What does it matter to me whether or not Britney fluffs her lines? Or if Amy Winehouse feels a bit peaky? Really, if you look at it objectively, it's a waste of precious time.

Luke McElroy said...

I like a lot of pop music. Although I'm not interested in pop star's latest problems, I admit I'm (a bit) interested in the glamorous side of it, and characters like Snoop Dogg.

And as well as simply enjoying the songs I'm also attracted by the surprising sound of some of them.

_Black_Acrylic said...

Well, I'm A Slave 4 U was outstanding.

Richo said...

I guess it's, like anything else, an ultimately subjective matter. I honestly don't have time for the assembly line that is pop arena these days, though. Heavily glossed music generally holds little attraction, and the entire industry surrounding it is, frankly, both fucking vile and symptomatic of everything that's going wrong with contemporary culture.

The very fact I'm moaning about it here, however, may betray my point somewhat. Although, on the other hand, maybe we've strayed from William's original point in the first place...?!

LJP said...

Frankly I never cared much for pre-packaged pop. (Probably after unwarranted exposure of it at work...)

It's probably more interesting in how Max Martin (Britney's songwriter/producer) makes the production more important than the songs. With Britney's first album he wrote and composed the music assembly-style before Britney even did the vocals. If you look at the website for Martin's studio it looks more like a machine shop than something for music -- although the gear list is interesting, of course...

Alexander said...

I'm confused by everything everyone has said but I'd just like to say that I misread the title of this thread as "Walking On Walter" and I think with that we can create something far more forward and enlightening.