Media Review–“Where Have You Been”

2012

Rihanna

Album Talk that Talk

directed by Dave Meyers

 

“Is that Gaga?”

That question was put to me as I was blasting Rihanna’s new video. No, friend, that was not Gaga….but I can see where you might get confused. Rihanna’s voice here is at least reminiscent of Gaga’s electro-pop style. Not to mention Rihanna manages five costume changes throughout the four minutes. And the frantic editing, which employs split screens, ghosting effects, and duplicate Rihannas,  flirts with ridiculous. In fact this video is so excessive, I had fun. If nothing else, she’ll get your attention with moments like this:

Meet Rihanna, the crocodile. To give credit, I actually enjoy this much more than if she had worn a full crocodile skin bodysuit.  This is a bit subtler, and I still get the idea: she’s a hunter, a predator. Her prey is the perfect guy, if we go by her lyrics. In these opening swamp shots, I think she largely succeeds at promoting herself as powerful yet attractive.

Another surprising positive I found was the choice and arrangement of dancers. Rihanna dances separately with both an all-male and an all-female group.

Yes, I had beautiful male dancers to watch!  I felt like there was a sense of cooperation in the group dance scenes, especially in the moment where the female group forms an eye and blinks. That takes coordination and a sense of the other members in the group. It seems intimate, as opposed to everyone dancing in their own three feet of space.

Really, movement is the key to understanding this video. This is a celebration of energy and rhythm and the ability to express those with your body. There is no example of a guy dancing to seduce a girl. There is no example of a girl dancing on a guy. You could maybe make the argument that Rihanna is dancing for her yet-unknown lover. But, he’s never shown in the video itself. She’s in a position of control and power over her body. We, the anonymous viewers, are the sole audience to her performance.

Power and prowess are continually shown; the dancers even seem to shake the frame itself, as it pulses with their movements (around 2:06).  They gaze out at the viewers, as if to say bet you can’t move like this. 

And then we get this:

Shiva-Rihanna. Destruction, transformation, rebirth. Shiva, a Hindu deity who is referred to as male.  Rihanna makes herself Shiva, defying that masculine pronoun.

This feeling is echoed in her voice as she asks for, “someone who can please me, love me all night long.” She knows her own sexual appetites. Knowing what you want….that’s power!

I think she’s on to something here.

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Media Review – “Heartless”

“Heartless,” But for Kanye It’s Hopeless

2008

Kanye West

“Heartless”  from 808s & Hearkbreak

Influences: Peter Max, Yellow Submarine, Pop Art

The premise is simple: woman are changeful and cold. And they can apparently take your soul, too! Who knew?

I listened to this song way too many times when it was released, I admit. It was always on the radio or playing over the speakers in a store.

I never got around to watching the video until a few days ago, and I was incredibly put off.

First of all, this is certainly the face of a woman who is cold and unfeeling:


Try again, Kanye. I’m not convinced she’s a bitch.

But more than the coloring book animation style, more than the trite story, what irritated me the most were the soup cans.

Because when I’ve just broken up with someone, I always go into my corner and cry under my paintings of Campbells. Right.

Needless to say, the shots of the woman and the soup cans drove me into an inarticulate rage. I spent half a minute trying to wrestle out words before I had to give up and type it.

Not only do the cans lack context, they also seem utterly devoid of any meaning. It just exists to reference Andy and pop culture.

How unique, a meaningless pop culture reference in a meaningless pop culture video.

At 2:20, the woman starts gyrating against a painting of a cartoon character. What is Kanye trying to tell me here? She’s just a decorative object similar to the pop art hanging all over the apartment. Also, she likes to corrupt boys by grinding her butt against them. Remember, she has no real feelings other than horny.

And then it gets even better. On the apartment walls are three more images of The Jetsons characters.

Animation is difficult and labor intensive and time consuming. Nothing is put in there arbitrarily. The juxtaposition of the male and female characters against the paintings of the Jetsons characters is not random chance. The male singer is positioned between the teenage girl and the mom, in front of the robot. Then there is a shot inserted where he is in front of the dog, Astro, which is presumably hanging in another part of the house. Astro has his huge tongue hanging out, panting for the sexy lady across from him. Or is that what Kanye is doing? He’s associated himself with lust, pure animal lust. I really find that slobbery tongue attractive, I do.

Now the woman is in front of the little boy Elroy. This character is the prodigy, the brilliant child in the family. But still a child, still controlled by father and mother. What are you saying to me, Kanye? Yeah, women might be clever, but you still look at them as children?

According to this video, women might be heartless, but it’s okay, they have their vaginas.

I’ll leave you with this, which I love because of its self-indulgent dependence on the male gaze. (Why have one, when you can have three???)