8 Dec 2012

2012 in Music Videos

I’m a real sucker for a good music video. Always have been, always will be. I can spend hours in front of Youtube drinking in the fashions, memorising the dance moves and generally living a little vicariously through the theatrics that make up some of the best three minutes committed to film. 
We’ve seen nothing from Lady Gaga this year. Beyonce has been too busy raising child. And I’m not even going to acknowledge Psy’s Gangnam Style. So, in no particular order, here’s what I’ve enjoyed watching most in 2012 …

Candy Candy Candy – Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
I could happily live in this video. The Hello Kitty colours, the disco balls, the crazy dancing onion. It's pure J-Pop joy.

I Fink You Freeky – Die Antwoord
It was so hard picking just one Die Antwoord video. They’re all amazing (even if their latest does ridicule Gaga). Because I mentioned Baby on Fire in my previous post, I’m going plum for I Fink You Freeky. Beautifully shot by acclaimed South African photographer Roger Ballen, this is stunningly dark stuff. 

Laura – Bat for Lashes
Oh, how I welled up when I first saw this. Tender, delicate, heart-warming. Natasha Khan ditches the headdresses and twirls an ageing ‘superstar’ around a dreamily lit stage.

Bad Girls – MIA
Say what you like about MIA, the girl sure makes some of the best music videos. This has already topped most end-of-year lists and scooped a ton of prizes, and it’s easy to see why. A big, ballsy work that mocks the expectations of the music video itself and its objectification of women. 

Girl Gone Wild - Madonna
This is Madonna showing all the young pretenders how it’s done.  She’s even recruited Kazaky in this one. If I’m honest, these muscle men in heels are the only reason Girl Gone Wild has made the list. Well, them and seeing Madonna looking as beautifully blonde as she did in her Erotica days.

Every Night I Say A Prayer - Little Boots
Bendy boys in leggings and crop tops do the best vogueing since, well, Vogue. Makes me want to visit a New York drag ball.   

Sweet Nothing - Calvin Harris feat. Florence and the Machine
Florence Welch is a battered girlfriend. She sings in a working men’s club. Calvin Harris pays some hardnuts to beat the shit out of her abusive lover ... Flo makes a good-looking man, too.

Hood - Perfume Genius
Simple and so lovely. Effeminate Mike Hadreas is cradled and dressed up by a beefy gay pornstar. Understated and gently touching.

Ke$ha: Warrior

I like girls who rap. I quite like glitter. And I really like getting hammered. It kinda goes without saying that I have a lot of time for Ke$ha.

Since I secretly purchased her debut record Animal, Ke$has auto-tuned snarls have featured on many a pre-drinking playlist, playfully nudging me to brush my teeth with a bottle of whiskey and get rather rowdy. So it was with much excitement that I got my hands on her second album proper, Warrior. 

Earlier in the year Ke$ha promised a record mostly inspired by 70s rock and the blues. In interviews she was threatening to expand her musical repertoire and move away from playground chants to develop something deeper that explored her spiritual journey (huh?!). Like I did with Christina Aguilera during her Back to Basics phase, I almost struck Ke$ha off my radar. I’m never interested in hearing a pop princess get serious with stripped back guff, and I certainly didn’t want to see Ke$ha swap her unhygienic rags for a look more wholesome. I wanted the same obnoxious odes to blacking out and getting laid in the backs of cars nasally screeched over squelchy electro beats. And, thankfully, that’s mostly what Ke$ha serves up again on Warrior. Hurrah! With Dr Luke, Will.i.am, fun., Max Martin and even Iggy Pop involved, Warrior is a big mix of electro-pop, dance and radio-friendly rock all shot through with Ke$ha’s cracking wordplay and knack for making something as innocent as going to the mall sound disgustingly crude.
While it’s not going to set the world on fire, Warrior certainly has its sights fixed on burning up plenty of dancefloors. From its stomping title-track opener to the ghost-loving Supernatural (complete with a Daft Punk-esque break), she takes us on a fast tour of dirty clubs, super late nights and getting wasted like there’s no tomorrow. She’s the ultimate YOLO advocate, celebrating the joys of being young and reckless and basically never ever apologising for fucking up. The only growing up Ke$ha appears to have done is to swap her bottle of Jack Daniels for a warm wine cooler.
Like any pop record, a couple of ballads are thrown into mix. They’re pretty forgettable and only worth the listen if you’re in any doubt that Ke$ha can actually sing. Most of her haters take issue with her fondness for auto-tune, and while she’ll never be a Mariah, tracks such as Past Lives and Wonderland prove that she can in fact hold a tune unaided.

I know I’m not going to win any cool points in professing my love for this grubby pop tart, but she’ll always be a first pick for any party playlist. Like Ke$ha, I recall walks of shame and rolling into work smelling of Bacardi breezers; I look back fondly on times passed out in the street wearing short shorts and a string vest; I even remember getting totally battered and blowing a shit load of glitter in someone’s unimpressed face (Ke$ha and I would so be best friends!). If you like your pop unapologetically fun, stupid and ridiculously catchy, then Ke$ha’s your girl.

Ke$ha still not for you? Here are a few other favourite brats to get a bit $leazy to:

4 Dec 2012

Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington

What’s it about?

Grace Coddington is creative director of US Vogue. Quietly adored by designers, photographers and fashion lovers alike, she won a horde of new fans and mainstream attention in 2007 after her feisty, stand-out turn in R.J. Cutler’s documentary, The September Issue. Grace is her memoir.

From a childhood spent on a dreary Welsh island, to her much-lauded work for the world’s most recognised fashion Bible, Grace charts Coddington’s rise from windswept loner to one of fashion’s most influential women.

What’s to like?

As you’d expect from Vogue’s creative director, Grace is a gorgeous package. In the heavily saturated market of celebrity biography and coffee table beauties, it’s an eye-catching affair: big, weighty and jacketed in vivid orange (a playful nod to Coddington’s unruly ginger mane). The visual treats continue inside, too. Charming hand-drawn illustrations add a touch of whimsy to her tales, and carefully selected photographs showcase her impressive portfolio as top model and genius fashion editor. 

Windswept loner
Why shouldn’t I bother? 

For its size and visual flair, the writing in Grace is disappointingly weak. While Coddington does recount the chance encounters, influencers and hard work that catapulted her to the top of her game, she is extremely light on personal details. Marriages, divorce and a car crash that cost her an eye-lid are dealt with in a tone that is matter-of-fact and devoid of emotion. Even a ‘traumatic’ miscarriage is reduced to a few reserved lines. In The September Issue Coddington is the passionate and oft warm spirit to Anna Wintour’s snow queen. However, on paper, Coddington comes across not entirely dissimilar to her infamously cool boss.

There are some tender moments where Coddington does pause to reflect – the death of her sister, for example, is gently moving as are the words she shares on Tristan, her orphaned nephew who she goes on to adopt. We do catch a glimpse of the naughty Grace, too, when she lets slip a gossipy anecdote about difficult celebs (Madonna) or romances that almost were (Jagger). It soon becomes apparent that while she is sparse on the details of her own life (zipping us through a good seventy years of it!), she delights in casting the spotlight on others, painting some truly memorable pictures of close acquaintances such as Karl Lagerfeld, Calvin Klein and John Galliano. She even dedicates an entire chapter to Wintour, further suggesting that Coddington is far more comfortable sharing stories of her relationships with others than revealing too much of the relationship she has with herself. 

Bruce Weber and his golden retrievers
It sounds like you’re sitting on the fence! Do you like it or not?! 

Grace is less memoir and more gossipy insight into the fashion industry from the 1950s to the present day. Which is fine.  As a fast and colourful history that documents the trends, talents and tantrums from an insider who has pretty much seen it all, Grace really does excel. But for those wanting to know more about Coddington herself and her work, I suggest stocking up on some back issues of Vogue where you’ll get a clearer picture marvelling at the exceptional narratives she creates for its pages.

It does make a stunning coffee table addition though…