Wednesday, August 29, 2012
It was a perfect time to sing. So I did. I hummed just as the warmth hummed on my skin. I hummed as the stars winked at me. The song that came from my mouth was none other than the French ballad La Vie En Rose by Edith Piaf. I didn’t even think about it. The notes found me and the music fit that moment. Perfectly lazy and warm, buzzing with emotion. If that song could have a smell it would smell like that night.
It was a fateful day when I first discovered Edith Piaf’s music. I was working at the library and I was putting away the movie La Vie En Rose. I have a penchant for French movies (one of my favorite movies is Amélie) so I took it home and watched it. I loved it. The movie told the story of Edith’s life from her early childhood until her death in 1963. The best part the film, of course, was the music. I probably would have turned it off if Edith’s music had not spoken to me so deeply.
La Vie En Rose…La Vie is “the life” and En Rose is “in pink.” The life in pink. A change in how you see your life. A way of living your life and viewing the world with rose colored glasses…
Music, especially good music, often brings back memories that I’ve forgotten. Memories that I never thought I held until they surface to be relived in rhythm to a song. The memories are always small insignificant moments, but they always hold the most meaning, the most beauty, the most humanity. They are detailed, but simple things. I remember every sensation being awoken. The smell, the feel, the sight, the hearing, the taste. Everything comes into sharp focus. That night I made another memory. The feel of the rocking and the stars streaking as my body sways with the swing. The sound of my cat pawing through the dried grass. The taste of dust and smoke in the air and the feel of my dry throat hitting the notes of the song. There is beauty in those moments. For it is those small moments that allow us time to be in our own minds. They hold the most reality. I felt so alive, so apart of everything. I felt present with no past, no future, just the now.
Make your own memory and listen to La Vie En Rose…Dance…Sing…Look at the stars…
Thursday, August 16, 2012
I was on YouTube the other day listening to some of my favorite tunes when I clicked on Big Jet Plane by Angus and Julia Stone…The song didn’t play instantly. Instead I was subjected to a 30 second ad, but this wasn’t like most ads. This was a Victoria’s Secret ad with a lot of skinny models in skimpy underwear flaunting themselves to some music. Sounds generic, right? However, I had heard the music before, but I couldn’t place it right away. I listened and then it hit me. Settle Down by Kimbra. About six or seven months ago not too many people had heard of Kimbra. Being a New Zealander with a flair for jazzy kind of tunes doesn’t make you too popular in the current music scene…But now most people have heard her voice at least in one song. A song that has now been overplayed on every pop radio station in the US. I’m sure you’ve hear Somebody I Used to Know by Goetye featuring Kimbra. It’s a catchy tune and it paints a nice story. If you haven’t seen the music video…well…it’s memorable since both singers are butt naked while being covered in body paint…I’ll add the video just for the heck of it…The style of the song is similar to Kimbra’s own personal music style. Quirky, odd, and unique.
When I first watched this video about six months ago, I became curious about this chick that sings really well and sounds like a better version of Katy Perry. And me being me, I checked out all of her videos and became obsessed. Back then, her more popular video, Settle Down, only had about a million hits. Now that same song has 18 million hits which is crazy, but I’m happy that more people are enjoying her music.
Most of her own music is peculiar with bold messages and themes. One of those songs is Cameo Lover which reflects her unique and girly style while still being a cheerful mix between 1950s pop, soul, hip hop and Broadway. The song could even be described as too precious. However, it’s such an upbeat song and the video is so happy go lucky with so much color and energy that it puts a smile on my face every time I listen. I find it a little strange that all of her background dancers are young girls ages nine to sixteen. A few of them even show up in her video for Settle Down as well. I suppose using young girls in this video encourages the feel of youthful energy and the ability to let go of your inhibitions and have fun. Or in Kimbra’s own words “open up your heart.” As adults, we often forget to find joy in the little things or to laugh at ourselves or to see the world with child-like wonderment. I think this video and song acts as a reminder to everyone not to forget to enjoy life and to open yourself up to the beauty of the world.
The next song I would like to show you is Good Intent; a seductive romp akin to a dramatic tango. The video is slower and more relaxed which fits the feel and rhythm of the song. There is also a use of color that shows the multiple faucets of Kimbra’s personality, red, black and white. Throughout the video Kimbra suceeds at pulling off the subtleness needed for acting like three different women who symbolize all that those colors represent. Red as seductive. Black as naughty. White as innocent. Her haunting, throaty voice and the dancing really adds a 1940’s Broadway feel to the whole song. Also, the dramatic angles and the use of shadow remind me of film noir as well. In all, the whole piece was put together well and whoever directed the video really understood the nuance to the song.
Now onto Settle Down which is my favorite song by Kimbra. Both the song and video has attitude and drips with sarcasm. The song starts out with Kimbra creating the beat and harmony. Slowly, more layers of harmony and rhythm are added to create a catchy, jazzy tune. The beginning lyrics set up what message this song is trying to portray. “I wanna settle down/I wanna settle down/Won’t you settle down with me?/Settle down.” The way Kimbra sings this in the video is almost robotic. She doesn’t move her body and only her mouth is moving and her gaze is fixed on something beyond our line of sight. The lack of emotion on her face really adds a creepy element to the meaning of the lyrics. She appears brainwashed and doll-like. Dolls are a big thing in this video. The young girls in the video play at being grownups and play at marriage with a life sized man doll. These girls are idealizing what married life is like and what it is like to settle down. However, the video and the song points out that the idea of being happy and settling down is an illusion. Girls from a young age often play with the idea of settling down and think only true happiness can be obtained by becoming dependent on another person. Individuality is sacrificed and we become doll-like, mass produced copies. Our striving to be just like everyone else makes us lose our sense of self and our ability to accept ourselves and others as we truly are.
I love the message of that song, but I do find it ironic that Victoria’s Secret used part of it in their ad campaign. The whole song is against idealizing perfection. But in the commercial, the women are thin and perfect…The message in the ad is “Love your body,” but really they want you to love and idealize these women’s bodies so that you’ll buy their product. They don’t want you to accept yourself; otherwise everyone would realize they don’t need to buy sexy panties and a bra to be happy. The messages of the song and the commercial were so dissimilar, I was floored and I found it a bit funny! At least, Kimbra’s song added attitude to an otherwise mundane commercial…but I expect no less from Kimbra who is so good at breaking genre and making music that doesn’t conform to anyone’s standards.
Before I leave you, I must ask, what do you think of Kimbra’s music? Have you heard this music before? Does she remind you of another musician? What do you think of Victoria’s Secret using Settle Down in their commercial? Which song is your favorite or did you hate all three? As always, I look forward to reading your comments and if you have any suggestions or you are dying to tell me about some new music you’ve heard, I am eager to hear from you. Thank you and have a wonderful weekend.