So, the videos of Flying Lotus’ “Parisian Goldfish” and Major Lazer’s “Pon De Floor” posted a couple days ago got me thinkin’….whoa, did those make me feel weird in the inside parts. I’m glad I investigated though, since I’ve been ignoring a lot of new dance music lately. I don’t always jive well with the frenetic, seizure-friendly mixing styles of acts such as Girl Talk, The Bloody Beetroots and a host of self-fashioned blog house producers that follow in their wake, and I felt this might be more of the same. I’ve also been a little wary of Major Lazer because of the idea that they’re blowing up dancehall for the mainstream - and therefore are responsible for reinterpreting it and representing it. Are Major Lazer acting as cultural ambassadors, or just riding a new trend, making parties more interesting so that white kids don’t have to venture out to real dancehall clubs? And if so, should we/can we qualify that experience? Or do we just enjoy the hot mess that it is, and stop worrying so much? As it turns out, the music community has been hot with this debate since the videos were released…
“The fact that they’re white men (major lazer) makes this even more problematic, irony or not. As an artist, I understand the purpose of art that evokes or ignites emotions, but beyond that how can this be their experience? Or perhaps this is what they see as onlookers of someone else’s experience, or EVEN BETTER, a fantastical concept they came up with, in which case I’m still offended. Some pieces of art advance human thought, some stifle it…major lazer. Irony does not trump racism (there I said it).”
Then of course, some eschew the racism debate and chalk it up to an issue of money and talent:
“I’m Black and of Caribbean decent however I was not offended by the video because of the influence of Reggae in the track and Black dancers portraying acts of sex through their dances. Weirded out as I was after watching the “Parisian Goldfish” video, yes but offended not so much. Black folks are exploited all the time but were not stupid. Clearly, the people in this video didn’t feel offended nor do they feel Major Lazer is a mockery to Black folks/Reggae culture. I’m sure these folks were paid but I doubt this was a multi-million dollar deal so they could’ve declined the offer.
Racist? Maybe. Misinterpretation of a demographic/sound they admire? Possibly. Poorly executed video concept? Very. I like the song but they definitely could’ve been more creative with this video. Even if they had Hula girls it would’ve still been not the most creative of video concepts.”
And finally, we have some folks just pourin’ that haterade, such as L.A. critic Jeff Weiss, excerpted below.
“At a time when The Bug, Joker and other next-generation producers are creating incredible music merging Dancehall traditions and Britain’s shifting electronic interests, you might be mistaken for thinking that Major Lazer is an utterly worthless waste of your time. However, it does have one redeeming function: play it in a packed room and spot the people who really like it. I guarantee you’ve just spotted the biggest douchebags in the house. Punch them in the face.”
Damn girl, tell it. Rounding out yet another episode in the decades-old debate of appropriation of black rhythms into “mainstream” (hip? liesure class? white?) pop. What I’m curious about is how some of the dancers, as well as Flying Lotus, who is of African descent, interpret their experiences, both with these videos, and in this greater cultural moment. Note that several of the dancers in “Pon De Floor” are not extras off the street, but include well-known dancehall scenesters such as Skeritt Bwoy.
Well, that said, I’ma side-step the hype for a moment and present a few sexuality- and body-positive dance videos which are arguably more hypnotic than any retard rainbow animation, and done with zero budget. DIY, bitches!
This video has been floating around for a little while now…starts out pretty standard but the moves get wild around 1:30.
I came across this one while attempting to compile a series of Ciara tribute videos (this project is still in the works, SEND ME LINKS if you find good ones). This is not put here as a joke, this guy is AMAZING.
Of course, this could now open up a discussion of issues of objectification, sexism (and by extension, homophobia) in dancehall, hip-hop, etc., but that’s a whole other can of worms. Y’all are welcome to take me there. In the meantime, enjoy…or consider.
And if you haven’t already, take a minute to check out the Bug, dude is SICK! You’re already on the internet, why resist?