DOPE Digest is a weekly roundup of pop culture miscellany, with succinct analysis from our contributors.
Nicki Minaj – “Anaconda” Video
syvo: Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” video emerged this week as the necessary X-rated complement to Taylor Swift’s G-rated play. Swift’s essentially conservative enterprise acknowledged sexual performativity as inherent in female pop identity while functioning primarily to distance her from it. Nicki Minaj on the other hand has us fixated on precisely the opposite, treating the viewer to a positively pornographic display of sexual confidence and comfort that is actually quite rare in today’s pop world, at least since Madonna began to slowly diminish in sexual relevance in the early 2000’s.
But other than this aspect, which is perhaps more about mainstream pop culture’s dearth of honest treatments of sex than its own creative merits, there’s little interesting about “Anaconda.” This is even less the case when one focuses on the song itself, which tiresomely samples Sir Mix-a-Lot as a cheap semiotic shortcut to a place we’re already at. “Baby got back” is a familiar cultural principle so clearly embedded in our collective understanding that it’s hardly in need of reiteration today, nearly a quarter century since Sir Mix-a-Lot made his statement. Though it’s predictable and quite understandable that she’d trumpet her “return” to the mainstream rap consciousness through the vehicle of her intense and impressive sense of personal sexuality, I can’t help but feel like we’re still missing out on what Nicki is capable of delivering and what rap really needs right now: a sick verse.
BK: This video… works, right?
The song is incredibly campy. It’s overtop in a way that caught me off-guard at first, and I didn’t like the song at the outset. But it grew on me. It’s like the reverse-version of ‘Baby Got Back’. I’ve come to appreciate the merits of the song as catchy and interesting and unique instead of obnoxious.
It does not showcase Nicki’s skills the way I’d like, but there is still time for that on the album. I suspect Anaconda will be more complex lyrically than her previous efforts and I can’t wait. This video is the perfect combination of smart and stupid, and just NSFW enough to keep it in the internet news for more than a day.
This is good Nicki, and I hope we have great Nicki, ‘Monster‘-Nicki, on the next single.
caroline: Damn Nicki, you lookin’ good girl. That being said, my immediate reaction upon watching the video for “Anaconda” is that every aspect feels appropriated from pop stars of the past. I love Nicki, and I consider her to be a true visionary, but this song and video just doesn’t do it for me. I’ve always been more of a fan of her songs that are a bit more melodic and/or showcase her insane rap skills – this song has neither. If I’m not sitting at my computer watching the video with her ass in my face, when and where would I listen to this song? Do people dance to this in a club? Sing along to it on the radio? It’s one of those songs where I don’t see how either of those things could be possible.
I’m hoping her next single or at least a few songs on her new album are less like “Anaconda” and more like “Moment for Life.”
Men, Women, and Children Trailer
syvo: This movie looks interesting. Like Spike Jonze’s Her (2013), Jason Reitman’s new movie appears to be an attempt at dispelling the popular, ridiculous myth that personal technology somehow has a dehumanizing or alienating effect on people. Of course, it’s just the opposite: the access to each other that technology permits provides for a radical amplification of our emotional lives. As a big fan of Reitman’s previous work, I’m really looking forward to this one.
BK: I’m a Jason Reitman fan too, and I respect that he would try and make a movie about something as seemingly mundane as personal technology. I hope he can pull it off.
The bigger thing for me is seeing what Adam Sandler can do in this movie. I know he’s taken on dramatic roles in the past with mixed results, but his most recent films have been largely ignorable and/or terrible. I’m hoping that the combination of competent direction and a stellar supporting cast (Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer and Dean Norris to name a few) will give him a vehicle to reboot his flailing career.
caroline: I’m excited for this movie, you guys. Not only do I like Jason Reitman, but I’m happy to see Adam Sandler in another dramatic role. His recent films have looked embarrassingly horrible, but when given the opportunity, I’ve always thought he had serious potential. His performance in Punch Drunk Love (2002) impressed me, and ever since then I’ve welcomed him taking on more serious roles. I can’t help but feel a bit badly for him, as I think it’s always been a tough for people to disassociate him from his Billy Madison (1994) and Happy Gilmore (1996) days. As Braden said, I’m hoping the supporting cast and solid direction are enough to give him recognition and respect in serious roles.
Charli XCX – “Break the Rules”
syvo: It’s become increasingly apparent that Charli XCX is willing to trade in some of her “weirdness” for commercial appeal. In a sense, this is disappointing. But it doesn’t bother me, too much at least, due to the fact that she’s better at writing pop songs than pretty much every major pop figure working today. Honestly, the more popular and “mainstreamed” that someone as smart and talented as Charli XCX becomes, the better off we’ll be as a society. This newest song off her now titled sophomore effort Sucker is of medium strength by her standards, but above average as compared to just about everyone else.
BK: You know me syvo, I am all about sellouts. If someone works hard enough or thinks strategically enough to break into the mainstream and sell their soul to corporate America, I am all for it. That what money is for: to co-opt great art (and for some other other things too, obviously).
This song kicks ass. Charli XCX is getting back to the sound that made her and the ladies of Icona Pop TONS of money last year with ‘I Love It‘ and I’m on board. This poppy, radio-friendly ear candy is exactly what I’m looking for as the summer winds down (or in the fall, or in winter, or pretty much any time). I hope her album delivers on the promise of this record.
caroline: Oh man, do I love me some Charli XCX. I’m not in love with this song the way I have been with her past stuff, but I’m happy to listen to it anyway. This song is incredibly catchy and perfect for radio, especially as teenagers everywhere are gearing up to go back to school (suckers) – this should be their new anthem.
I completely agree with syvo that we could use more mainstream Charli XCX. She is a diamond in the rough amongst the pop stars of today – she’s immensely talented, smart, and sexy without being overtly sexual. She’s one of my very favorite musicians and I cannot WAIT to see what she has in store on her new album.
Sonno Profondo 5 Minute Clip
syvo: 1970’s giallo can be thought of as the Italian answer to the British/American Hitchcockian psychosexual triller, most popularly known through the films of Dario Argento. The above clip introduces a fine example of “neo-giallo,” a cinematic revivalist movement that distinguishes itself from the neo-grindhouse of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez by its genuine, as opposed to ironic, interest in the subgenre’s keen use of formalism. While Taranino and Rodriguez seem determined to constantly remind the audience of their own lack of seriousness, neo-giallo is brave enough to indulge in stylistic cues of mostly academic interest while still managing to take the material seriously. Give the clip above a look to see what I mean.
BK: …I agree with what he said.
This movie looks and sounds really intense. I’m not a huge fan of horror in general, but if I’m going to watch a horror movie I want to get the full experience. If nothing else, this looks like it offers the total horror experience. The cinematography has a vintage tint that is familiar to Grindhouse fans, and if the plot delivers on the brief sneak-peak we get here, this one could be a cult-classic.
Ariana Grande – Love Me Harder feat. The Weeknd
BK: I think I speak for everyone when I say that I was a little tired of hearing about Ms. Grande and hearing her songs on the radio. ‘Problem‘ is a good-but-not-great track, and it’s been playing on loop since spring. ‘Break Free‘ is my preferred of the two, but that one has started to wear thin as well. And now we have this; a new single featuring syvology.com darling The Weeknd.
And it’s great. This song is excellent and I am going to be playing it constantly. The Weeknd sounds just the way he should, sending out smooth pop vocals over a slightly-dark track, and Ariana brings the same good-vibes to this song that saturate the radio already. This is a hit, a smash, and a song I will certainly be annoyed by in two months. Until then, I’m sold.
syvo: Wow. I am fucking psyched about this song. Ariana Grande has consistently shown herself to be an exceptional force in the modern pop world, delivering a string of attractive jams that somehow manage to not make me feel like an idiot for enjoying. I’m a big fan of feeling like an idiot, but this is refreshing. At the same time, there’s nothing highbrow about her appeal; it’s simply the basic decency of her image and sound that strikes me as respectable. Meanwhile, since I’ve taken it upon myself to continuously apologize for The Weeknd, this track is absolutely what I’m looking for on a Friday.
caroline: I’m pretty pumped this new Ariana Grande track is out because I can hardly stand to hear “Problem” and “Break Free” at this point. I absolutely love how different this song is and how perfectly The Weeknd and Ariana Grande sound together – it’s almost difficult to tell their voices a part. I’m oh so happy to see The Weeknd on a track that syvo doesn’t have to apologize for.
There’s some serious crooning happening in this song and I’m into it in a big way. As Braden said, I know in a few months I won’t be able to listen to it anymore as it will no doubt saturate the radio and any other public place where music is playing, but until then I’ll be listening to this song on repeat.
DOPE Digest Throwback: Hole – Celebrity Skin
syvo: “Celebrity Skin” represents Hole at its most poppy, accessible, and lighthearted, an easy punk tune in sharp distinction to the painful angst on display throughout the grunge masterpiece Live Through This. Recently, in response to what she thought was a fan’s request to take her top off, Courtney Love told the audience, “Topless? I’m 50! It’s over!” Whether that’s true still remains to be seen.
BK: I was never a Hole fan, this song holds up surprisingly well. It’s short, the crunching-guitar sound is perfect with the gruffness of Courtney Love’s vocals, and the lyrics are memorable. I’ve instantly got ‘Oh make me over’ stuck in my head.
This is an ideal weekend jam.