Posts tagged with ‘review’
- Written by Sarah
M.I.A has never been an artist who worries about her public image. But unlike other “controversial” contemporary female artists like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry or Miley Cyrus - whose meat dresses, girl-kissing and sexualized racism are merely attention-seeking stunts aimed to further a limelight persona - M.I.A lands in the spotlight because her sense of self and her sensibility are so adverse to traditional American media narratives, and she has always refused to play nice or compromise her beliefs to please such audiences.
She confronts this head-on in Matangi, her fourth full-length studio album, which came out at the beginning of November. No apologies here, as Maya takes on the reaction to her 2012 SuperBowl performance (“Let you into SuperBowl/you tried to steal Madonna’s crown” she says in Boom Skit) where she flipped the bird on live tv and was subsequently sued for $1.5 million by the NFL. At one point, M.I.A said that her middle finger was a symbol of devotion to Matangi, the Hindu goddess from whom this album takes its name. But M.I.A knows that what makes her unpalatable to many Americans is not her actions, but who they came from.
Girls Get Busy Review: Dada Masilo’s Swan Lake
Written by Minnie
Dada Masilo's reinterpretation of the canonized ballet, Swan Lake (NO, TRUST ME, KEEP READING!), is one of the most uniquely beautiful live performances I have seen in a very long time. Regardless of whether or not you are a fan of ballet or 'classical' arts, this production is worth seeing.
A South African dancer and choreographer, Masilo melds classical and contemporary dance technique with traditional African steps to create high energy, incredibly fluid works of art that delve into such topics as queer issues and race relations. Swan Lake draws upon Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s original ballet but right from the start, it is clear that the performance will aim to shake off all the antiquity associated with the title. The cast emerges, all dressed in tutus regardless of gender, and Nicola Haskins begins a parodical explanation of the hackneyed trajectory of a typical ballet. I’m all for gender-bending and mocking dominant western art forms but I find that attempts often stop short at critique and fail to create something new or alternative. However, this production offers a humorous analysis and then segues into an achingly beautiful, complex exploration of queer identity and problems in South African society. Masilo simultaneously dismantles a predominantly white art form (ballet) with gorgeous African dance and contemporary music (including Steve Reich [!!!!], Rene Avenant, and Arvo Part) but somehow manages to also retain the obvious beauty of Tchaikovsky’s score and general grace of classical ballet.
For those who don’t know the story of Swan Lake beyond the Natalie Portman movie (I literally just wrote Kiera Knightley and then had to google it – I was wrong, duh), like most ballets, it’s about love: Prince Siegfried has just turned 21, the age at which he must be married, so he takes to the woods with some friends because, like, who wants to be married (ever) at 21? While in the woods, he spots a beautiful swan with a crown on its head who later turns into an equally attractive Human Gurl named Odette. She informs him that the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart (who eventually disguises himself as Siegfried’s mentor) cast a spell turning her and the other girls into swans and the lake is formed by the tears of their parents (woah). The only way the spell can be broken is if a man pledges his love to her (ugh, come on). So he’s about to do it because she’s pretty, etc. but then Von Rothbart has to show up and ruin everything, obviously.
The next day, at Siegfried’s birthday bash, he’s presented with all these women he can choose from because he’s a prince and that’s okay. Von Rothbart shows up IN DISGUISE with his daughter who is also IN DISGUISE (because of magic) as Odette. Siegfried confesses his love to her thinking it’s Odette but the real Odette has actually been watching from afar the whole time!!! She flees! Siegfried, realizing his mistake, chases after her. Von Rothbart is like, ‘haha, yes, you idiot’ and reveals his and his daughter’s true forms. Basically everything goes wrong from there and Odette and Siegfried kill themselves (and the other Swan Girls drown Von Rothbart and daughter). It’s all very upsetting!!!
So, take all the heartache of this story and contextualize it into real-life issues: Masilo’s Siegfried is attempting to explain to his parents that he cannot marry because he is in love with someone else… that someone else is revealed to be another man. The pas de deux between Siegfried and his real love is otherworldly. Their bodies barely touch but are so connected in this liquidy hybrid of classical ballet and African dance. Masilo swaps in Saint-Saëns’ “The Swan” here (and several other times throughout the ballet) and I think it so perfectly captures the unbearable feelings the characters are attempting to express. I can’t describe this scene in any other way except to say I cried. What hurt my heart even more was the rhythmic, pulsing group dance in violent response to Siegfried’s forbidden love.In one moment, a friend or relative silently walks up to Siegfried and mimes that her heart has been broken because of his love for another man. This was the hardest thing for me to handle, that queerness is so fundamentally wrong in some people’s eyes that it would break their heart if they found out such a thing about a family member or friend. Gah.
The ballet reaches its climax of emotional devastation by invoking the horrors of AIDS and violence in South African society but none of this is excessive; it is all done so carefully and beautifully. The dancers come out all together for the final scene with long black skirts and bare tops. As their bodies stretch on the shadowy stage, it is difficult to tell which are meant to be read as ‘male’ or ‘female’. Each body collapses to the floor one by one until only Siegfried’s true love is left. He drops too, finally. I couldn’t speak once it ended but I knew that I had lived through something really important.
Dada Masilo’s Swan Lake just finished its run in Paris. If you have an opportunity to see it in a city near you, I can’t recommend it enough. At the very least, check out the videos on Vimeo and Youtube!
Girls Get Busy Review: Janelle Monae's The Electric Lady
Released September 10, 2013 on Bad Boy Records
- Written by Sarah
Before listening to The Electric Lady I tried not to read other reviews of Janelle Monae’s second full length album, released September 10. This was in part because preconceived expectations aren’t helpful in critical thinking and also because Monae’s work—and perhaps no modern artist so admirably models what dedication to craft and execution look like— is so frequently miscast as a function of her artistic performativity, instead of the other way around. But, much like many reviewers, I am getting ahead of myself so let me say: this album is nearly flawless and if you don’t buy it (YES PLEASE PAY FOR IT) immediately, you’re only cheating yourself (well, if you don’t pay for it you are also cheating Janelle Monae).
Monae’s sophomore effort will undoubtedly be called a concept album, a piece of performance art, etc. “Experimental,” will whisper through other reviews, unsure of what to do with a young black woman who wears only black-and-white and writes songs about a dystopian future where androids have created a rebel counterculture, in which Monae’s alter ego, Cindi Mayweather, is a rebel android fugitive around which much of the android community rallies. The Electric Lady is not a joke or a performance: it is one of the most genuine expressions of an artist’s vision that I’ve ever listened to. Monae’s past work is overshadowed by this suggestion of novelty too and maybe best describes why Monae has yet to find a commercial niche (2010’s The ArchAndroid sold less than 150,000 copies). A religious black woman from Kansas who writes R&B about a future in which androids are the “other” doesn’t conform to any standard hegemonic notion of what “religious black Southern woman” “R&B” or the dreaded “successful female artist” looks like. The Electric Lady attempts to overcome these preconceptions— not by sacrificing the artistic vision or the performativity that Monae has staked out— but by executing her vision in fourteen ever-sharper, ever-more dancable tracks (plus two overtures and three interludes from the post-apocalyptic ‘droid radio station 105.5 WDRD hosted by DJ Crash Crash).
Every song is good but the standouts start the album and easy you into the slower tracks. “Givin Em What They Love (feat. Prince)” is my favorite song; it snarls to life with Monae crisply singing, “I am sharper than a razor/eyes made of lasers/Bolder than the truth.” This is the manifesto of The Electric Lady, she “ain’t never been afraid to die/Look a man in the eye/I come to give you what you love.” The celebration of female strength against oppression pervades every song— “Ghetto Woman” has the best beat of the album and the most emotional subject matter, as a tribute to Monae’s mother; the respectful star-crossed lover fatalism of “Primetime (feat. Miguel)” (“She’s like a fire the world can’t tame”); and the sexually powerful and irresistible protagonist in “Dorthy Dandrige Eyes (feat. Esperanza Spalding)”. “We the kind of girls who aren’t afraid to get down” is an excellent rallying cry for the proto-typical millennial feminist; whatever getting down means to you, with whomever you want.
The exchange and equation of blackness and android in this album is explicit, but the interludes draw broad enough lines—and in a few places this album seems to specifically address—that when Monae is talking about forbidden love between humans and androids, she’s calling our attention to a historical pattern of political separation that includes sexual orientation in addition to race*. “ROBOT LOVE IS QUEER” shouts a caller-in to DJ Crash Crash’s show, and in context it feels like a refreshing return to the idea of queerness as verbiage— queering a broken system can be done by anyone left out of it. The other suggestions are subtler: “Am I a freak/Because I love watching Mary” in “Q.U.E.E.N. (feat. Erykah Badu”) and “She followed me back to the lobby/Yeah she was looking for undercover love” in “Given Em What They Love.” The furtive, underground desire for contact with an untouchable group gives Wondaland its realness; its relatability comes from the fact that when Monae talks about resistance toward a hegemonic culture that demonizes certain identities, she knows what she is talking about.
I urge you to spend two straight days with this album as I did; I’ve only scratched the surface of all contained within it— there are seven tracks I haven’t even mentioned by name in this review and they are deserving of your attention. This album takes inspiration from everywhere— I heard traces of Bowie, Prince, Dick Dale, TV on the Radio and even Dolly Parton— and makes it all better, tighter and prettier. “The memories come how/It’s funny how they/come back with a song,” Monae muses on the album’s aptly named last track, “What an Experience.” She’s underselling it.
* I think this album serves (or can serve, rhetorically) as a cultural counterpoint to Kanye West’s “Yeezus” as an album by a black artist that breaks the constraints of musical genres. Both albums propose the otherness of blackness as critical to the album’s message— West’s “Monster” is Monae’s “Cindi”— but while West— a hugely successful commercial male artist— focuses his anger on the racism that he overcame to succeed and still experiences in the criticism that he receives for experimenting, Monae’s narrative is about resistance through joy, through dancing and being around your comrades. In Wondaland it is a radical act to be happy and love yourself; Yeezus stands alone against the world. Neither is a more valid way of processing bullshit, but it’s an interesting to compare and contrast the two perspectives.
- Sarah for Girls Get Busy
Girls Get Busy Review: Lisa Hanawalt's My Dirty Dumb Eyes
I feel like if I were a 50+ year old dude writing for the review section of The ____ Times, I would describe Lisa Hanawalt’s new book, My Dirty Dumb Eyes, as “definitely dirty but not at all dumb!!” It’s really true, though: Hanawalt’s collection of comics and illustrations is – on the surface – a series of freaky and hilarious vignettes, but her sardonic exploration of pop culture, sex, and the general weirdness of being a human/having a body makes My Dirty Dumb Eyes worthy of rereading (over and over).
The history of alternative comics is one full of bodily fluids, sex, and anxious autobiography but from a predominantly male point-of-view. While Hanawalt is certainly not the first female cartoonist to unleash a wild, oozy (literally, there’s a lot of real and invented viscera in this book, so beware!) world into a male-dominated genre, this latest work is on par with some of comics’ greatest, grossest ladies such as Phoebe Gloeckner, Diane Noomin, and Julie Doucet (specifically thinking of Doucet’s earlier work). Hanawalt manages to exceed the “shock for shock’s sake” trope, however; My Dirty Dumb Eyes achieves its insightfulness via outlandish humor (rather than at the expense of it). Though Hanawalt was previously a member of the now-obsolete collective of female comics artists, Pizza Island (and dang, come to think of it, all of the previous members are also worth checking out), she does not explicitly attempt to narrate any archetypal female experience in her work. In fact, a large number of her illustrations and stories include anthropomorphized animals, suggesting a level of separation from the standard conceptions of humanness/gender in general.
One of my favorite and more subdued comics in the book, “Moosefingers,” involves a stylish horse-thing crafting clay fingers. The story beautifully shifts color palette from panel to panel (again, if I had less shame, I would unapologetically use a word like ‘chameleonic’ right about now… I guess I am – SHIT!) as the character carefully melds the clay between her furry handhooves. The creature experiences a sort of wistful nihilism in the process of making these seemingly pointless fingers, thinking: “all the things that matter to me now won’t make any sense later in life, I can’t control that.” It turns out that Hanawalt actually took on this same project herself and photographic evidence of the (real lovely) fingers is disclosed at the end of the book along with some other great extras.
Other highlights of My Dirty Dumb Eyes include: illustrated movie reviews (that were originally featured on The Hairpin) in which Hanawalt basically ignores entire plot-lines in favor of dealing with, for example, the absurd experience of being an audience member watching James Franco in Rise of the Planet of the Apes; “Sex Fantasies Inspired By Movies” that had me stifling my laughter while I secretly leafed through during any downtime at my job this summer; and hypothetical slip-ups of an intoxicated Martha Stewart in “The Secret Lives of Chefs” (originally published in Luckypeach Magazine).
Lisa Hanawalt’s discussion of sex, farting, and celebrity-bashing in My Dirty Dumb Eyes is dissociated from any maxim of “haha, yeah, girls like comics ‘n’ vulgar stuff too! Alright!!!!”. She is honest, funny, and – for the most part – unconcerned with the fact that she is a woman making interesting art. While there is inarguably merit and necessity in female-identifying artists speaking candidly about gender roles and sexism, Hanawalt’s complete lack of self-consciousness (at least where gender is concerned) seems to almost function as an even bigger “fuck you” to sexism in comics. Her unabashed grossness, unique aesthetic, and genuine hilariousness position her as equal to (or, come on, better than) her male contemporaries, not just as an artist who must consistently be qualified by her gender as a “great female cartoonist.”
You can (do it, do it!) purchase My Dirty Dumb Eyes from Drawn & Quarterly.
Girls Get Busy Review: Gabby Bess' Alone with Other People
Ana engages with Gabby’s book, a long with other works of art.
I first read Gabby Bess’ Alone With Other People almost three months ago. I had just moved to a new city. I applied the mask of the “young female creative professional living in Brooklyn.” I exerted ambition and self-assurance, and openness, and confidence. My rituals of greeting new acquaintances, my Internet activities, my movements through crowded subway stops, entailed performative acts of self-realizing. Selfies, social media, silent stares from strangers. Fake it till you make it.
Alone With Other People combines a selection of varying poetic formats that evoke the very displacement Bess expresses within her writing. I read the book in one sit and felt a little sad and a little lost afterwards. Filled with sad humor and disillusionment, I felt like Bess reflected something I have felt and could not put into words—the displaced exhaustion following all of the emotional labor necessary in performing myself. Bess’s novel is in conversation with the various iterations of self-portraiture that have left women straddling between the burdening freedom of self-making with the continually engrained mandate to perform the Young-Girl. Bess writes:
From here I constructed my identity
and set it aside for myself and others to admire.
When I give advice it is essentially saying, “Oh,
be more like me” and I can say that and point
to a diagram that I have drawn up in the time
that I have spent alone, bettering myself.
If we follow Judith Butler and call gender a performance with no final act, only an eternal reprise of self-making, at what point do we separate performing for others from performing alone? Self-portraiture, particularly when the self in making is female, has deformed into an act of alienation, of severing and denial. Bess’s collection, if read as a form self-portraiture, manages to reveal both the emotional labor of this performance with the bruised and lonely confusion meddling within. I saw in Bess’s poetry what I saw in Goldin’s bloodied eyes—a female gaze, eternally performing for the camera, peering with despair, hoping for someone to look back and see themselves within.
Buy Alone With Other People by Gabby Bess here.
SisterWitchGirlPower and the Problems with Charmed
Going into this, I seem to have seriously underestimated Charmed, the television show about sister witches that ran from 1998 - 2006. Mostly, Charmed just seems so incredibly average. I’ve seen more episodes than I care to count, but I don’t know if I could successfully summarize the plots of more than a handful. Charmed was what I watched if I was at home and bored, looking for a reason to stare at a TV screen and think about other things. The dialogue isn’t captivating, the clothes are very early 2000s, and the supernatural special effects are pretty lame. I just never thought of Charmed as a show that people actually care about.
However, the internet has taught me that people not only love this show, but people write dissertations about a witch played by Shannen Doherty. There’s even a wikipedia page titled “Charmed academia.” When I realized that Charmed was being analyzed as a feminist text, I was both disappointed and a little relieved. The entire reason I set out to write about Charmed is because I saw in it so little merit. From a (very) broad perspective, Charmed’s closest television ally is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, another show about the supernatural, featuring strong women, and produced at around the same time. But Buffy is good. It’s well-written, the fashion is horrifying in a deeply satisfying way, and there have already been a wealth of scholarly articles written on the program. Because I love Buffy, and because I didn’t want to get buried under the livejournal pages of slayer-themed feminist criticism, I decided to turn to the next (next next next) best thing. A late 90s show about witches and girl power that is watchable yet unbelievably bland! No one will have analyzed this through a feminist lens, because who would want to? But they have. Apparently, many have. And because I don’t want to pay to download anyone’s Charmed-based dissertations, I will assume that no one has compiled a list of moments from the pilot episode and lazily critiqued them from an anti-essentialist perspective. If so, I’m sorry, because I could only watch this episode (which is, hilariously, called “Something Wicca This Way Comes”) while intermittently checking all of my social media. It’s not a very riveting 40 minutes of television.
Read more after the break and please send your reviews to firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Conception’ novel review by Ilse Castellanos
I absolutely ADORED the book!!! It is defiantly a one of a kind story; exposing hard themes like abortion, abusive parent offspring relationships, unemployment, under-validation, sex, and racism (just to cross of the very first ones of my mind). Such themes are just never too popular in books, and even less when the main character is a teenage black girl; the best thing it is just so relate-able, because everyone knows what it is too feel stuck and trapped. It just so beautiful, the way it is written and the plot is absolutely brilliant, and I have just too many great things to say about this book. I EXTREMELY recommend it to everyone, it might not be an easy read to many people but it is defiantly worth the
constant dictionary usage re-reading of certain paragraphs.
The story consists of two points of views, Shivana’s and her baby’s. I know the baby’s sound a bit creepy, but after you finish the book you realize that the baby acts as a conscience, like an almost adult, even a god.
Summary (WARNING!!!!: The first paragraph contains spoilers) after the break
Potty Mouth – Sun Damage 12” EP review by Caitlin Gwynn
Potty Mouth, straight from Massachusetts, have been Girls Get Busy favourites for quite a while, and judging from their latest 12” EP, it isn’t difficult to see why. The 6 track ‘Sun Damage’ EP is a near perfect example of the recent riot grrl revival. Potty Mouth are 4 ass-kicking ladies, whose speciality is angry songs with relatable lyric and a punk edge that are totally infectious.
Some GGB readers will have already heard ‘Kids’, and will have probably seen the video that accompanies it. ‘Kids’ is a future theme tune for disenfranchised grrls, and is a feisty song about not wanting to grow up. Similarly, EP opener, ‘Hazardville’, the infectious sister track to ‘Kids’, about the frustrating nature of hometowns, is a song that many will instantly relate to, and connect with, and this is where Potty Mouth really shine. It’s obvious from ‘Hazardville’ alone that the subject matter is rooted in the frustrations and annoyances of growing up, the awkward stage between being a teenager, and finally being a responsible adult. The rest of the EP continues in this vein, with songs like ‘Dog Song’, where the protagonist of the song imagines themselves as a subservient dog, and the feminist ‘Girls XL’. The subject matter touches on a lot of different themes, but the lyrics are always backed up by singalong refrains, and strong riffs from the rest of the band.
With their infectious punk and indie hybrid, Potty Mouth are set to be big. They successfully take the feisty-ness of riot grrl, add some massive tunes to it, with an extra shot of emotion to boot. ‘Sun Damage’ as a whole really shows off the formula the band have created, and the EP is a great collection of solid and self-assured songs. The band are touring around the US over the next few months, but fingers crossed we’ll see Potty Mouth visit us in the UK very soon.
You can listen to the EP here:
Potty Mouth’s tumblr and tour dates!
Please send your reviews to email@example.com
'Strong Female Protagonist' webcomic review by Margot Eberle
Strong Female Protagonist is a recently web released comic, updated bi-weekly, that follows the daily trials and tribulations of a college age American girl who just so happens to have superpowers and a “crippling sense of social injustice.” Written by Brennan Lee Mulligan and drawn by Molly Ostertag, fans of the always classic Wonder Woman will love the more “Occupy Generation” take on the female superhero archetype in this comic. Allison, aka Megagirl, used to be a superhero but now attends college in an urban city. Her roommate is an avid member of protests and once even tries to use Allison’s powers to fend off police, much to the chagrin of Allison.
The comic is young, only in the beginning of its second issue, but I’m already anxiously awaiting what the rest of this particular issue and the comic series itself have in store for Allison. [SPOILER ALERT] Why did she stop being Megagirl? Are she and Patrick going to actually date? What is up with that Rat guy?
Strong Female Protagonist is a webcomic about a female protagonist who also happens to be strong in terms of being a superhero, however, I’m also anxious to see how truly progressive this comic is in terms of its representation of a female lead—besides being heteronormative, at least from what I can gather from it’s early issues. Hopefully Allison doesn’t pull an original Batwoman and just give up her powers because of a bright-eyed boy or something. So far though, this webcomic is entertaining, cute, and pretty different. Check it out!
The comic can be read free online at http://strongfemaleprotagonist.com
Please send your reviews to firstname.lastname@example.org