Loss of Art in the Media

Art: noun. the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

Nobody can ever agree on what is, and is not, art.

Some people might accuse Piet Mondrian as a lazy artist who just uses lines and colors, while others see a revolutionary idea behind his work.

The way each of us sees and interprets forms of art is unique, which is why it is such a difficult topic to talk about.

Yet, after seeing Aronofsky’s Black Swan a couple nights ago, I felt compelled to write about it. This movie is too incredible not to write about.

The movie follows ballet dancer Nina (Natalie Portman). She lives and breathes her art, always striving for perfection in her technique. After getting the lead in a revamped version of Swan Lake, it becomes a metaphor for Nina’s life as she learns to indulge herself in the contrasting mindsets of both the White and Black Swan characters.

I can’t say much more without spoiling it.

This movie does what so few other movies are able to do: stick to the plot. Instead of veering off into annoying subplots and throwing in big, explosive action scenes, the focus is instead on Nina, and the development of her character.

Our society demands so much out of films now. Moviegoers now demand action-packed scenes, outrageous characters, and dumb comedy. And the sad part is, the film industry is giving in.

What was once an art form that required talent, insight, and a thorough thought process is now a fast-paced industry that spits out cookie-cutter productions with typecast actors who play the same character from their last movie, just with a different name and a slight alteration to their physical appearance. (See: Will Ferrell)

Black Swan is not a movie you can take at face value.

Art is something that is meant to be thought about, as it can be interpreted any number of ways. Producing a movie that gives the audience all the answers is not art. I’m not saying those movies aren’t good, even great, but they still are not art.

We need to start learning to appreciate the media we are exposed to beyond what we see. Look at that definition of art at the beginning of this post. Now think of the last movie you’ve seen. Would you consider that art?

Leave your thoughts below. I’m looking forward to this discussion.

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My Top Albums for 2010

It’s time for me to get back into the blogosphere! Let’s go about this easily: my top albums for 2010! (In no particular order)

#1. Christina Aguilera’ Bionic

I figured I would state the obvious first.

Why I like it: As an avid Christina fan, I nearly peed myself when I heard she was making an electronic album. This is an album in which Christina took her powerhouse lungs and vocal cords and pushed herself to sound different and break those rigid associations about her over-singing.
Favorite Track: My best friend and I have a running joke about “Woohoo” (feat. Nicki Minaj), but I am in love with “Elastic Love” for its unique sound and clever office supply metaphor. My favorite ballad, though, would be “I Am.”

#2. Steed Lord, Heart II Heart

Why I like it: I have to say, first, that this album was not released this year. However, because I discovered it this year, it made my list. I’ve only recently gotten into the electronic music scene, and this really caught my attention and had me begging for more. Lead singer Kali has such a beautiful voice which blends beautifully into the intense music playing with her. The lyrics are well-written, loaded with religious and social commentary, and (most importantly) gets me on my feet. If I’m listening to Heart II Heart, there is no doubt I am dancing.
Favorite Track: Do I have to pick? Well, if I had to, it would be the opening track, “Bed of Needles.” It’s my favorite to sing and dance to.

3. Kelis, Flesh Tone

Why I like it: Just like Christina, much of Flesh Tone was inspired by the birth of the artist’s son. So rather than producing her familiar hip-hop, r&b style of music, Kelis turned to the electronic genre to produce mind-boggling and heartstring-tugging songs.
Favorite Track: (I just happen to be listening to it now.) “Scream” has it all for me: a spine-shaking beat, intense bass, great vocals, and an overarching feeling of  open self-expression, regardless of consequences.

4. Robyn’s Body Talk (all of them)

Why I like it: I had missed her “Konichiwa Bitches” era, after she had opened her own record label, Konichiwa Records, but finally got caught up–just as her website flipped upside down. It revealed the platinum blonde Swede with a shocked expression, with the upbeat, sassy tune later to be revealed as “Fembot” playing. Since that time I have seen her twice in concert, and will again in February. This girl really pushed herself, producing this anthology of nothing but incredible music. The third, and final, installment “Body Talk” is a compilation of some of her best music from parts one and two, with five additional tracks.
Not only are her music and lyrics incredible, but this girl can also perform!!  Constantly moving, dancing, shaking, and drawing her audience into the best performance I’ve ever been to. But maybe that was because I was front and center. Who knows.
Favorite Track: Ack! So tough to decide! As far as her singing style, I can’t get enough of “Dancing on My Own,” though it is her first single. But my favorite track of all is “None of Dem,” a track in which she collaborated with Royksopp. The song has a dark, f*** you mood that I think anybody can relate to at some point in their lives.

5. Scissor Sisters, Night Work

Why I like it: I’ve never been exposed to a lot of Scissor Sisters prior to this album, so I had a lot of catching up to do. But what I’ve realized is that this is still a genuine Scissor Sisters album, with the same fun, quirky, retro feel that Scissor Sisters use in their music. I also love how versatile this album is; it covers a plethora of emotions and attitudes that every time I listen to it it takes me on an emotional ride.
Favorite Track: Maybe I shouldn’t have included this section. It’s so difficult! The last track, “Invisible Light,” can be described only as epic. And even that word doesn’t touch it.  This is what I imagine will be playing when I die and am crossing over. That moment of in-between, whatever that may be, would be so epic and beautiful that “Invisible Light” is the only song I can imagine playing while taking that journey.

6. Golden Filter, Voluspa

Why I like it: This album solidified why I began to like electronic music. Another album containing religious commentary, but with a much different sound than Steed Lord. Lead singer Penelope Trappes has a sweet, luring voice that immediately draws you in and makes you want to get up and move.
Favorite Track: “Thunderbird,” to me, is the Golden Filter equivalent of Scissor Sisters’ “Invisible Light.” It has that same feeling of being so epic and spiritually motivating.

7. Goldfrapp, Head First

Why I like it: Like other artists on this list, I can appreciate those who go beyond what they’re known for and creating a whole new sound. Head First is a deviation from the dark, almost brooding sound of Seventh Tree and Black Cherry. Instead, Goldfrapp released an album that is a late 70’s, early 80’s sound at its best. I really wanted to get some leg warmers so I wouldn’t feel out of place listening to this.
Favorite Track: “Rocket.” Wit is always something that catches my attention, especially when paired with a even wittier video. Seriously, don’t we all have an ex or someone who stabbed us in the back that we wish we could just strap to a rocket and shoot into space, Looney Tunes style?

8. M.I.A., Maya

Why I like it: Protest music at its best!! There’s a very good reason this album made it onto Spin and Rolling Stone magazines’ top album lists. Culturally-inspired rhythms with uninhibited lyrics makes this album danceable yet thought-provoking. Certainly something not to miss if you have any interest in human rights.
Favorite Track: “Born Free.” I’m not the biggest fan of loud electric guitar sounds, but this song is among those few exceptions. This song provides commentary on the subjectivity of freedom, and some have speculated that it may have implications about genocide, which M.I.A. had experienced during her life living in Sri Lanka. Best part is the gut-wrenching video, in which American soldiers drag young red-headed boys out of their homes and force them to run across an active mine field. It is a horrifying, graphic display but proves a major point regarding genocide and the irrational treatment of human beings by other human beings.

9. Maluca, China Food

Why I like it: I really don’t think a lot of people know about Maluca yet, which is insanely disappointing. This girl is incredible. Her EP China Food combines everything I love about electronic music and combines it with Latin-inspired rhythms, producing unique tracks with a don’t-mess-with-me attitude. I had the pleasure of seeing Maluca open for Robyn at her last concert in Chicago, and fell in love. This chick has a ton of energy, which managed to converted a complacent crowd just waiting for Robyn into a whole new sold-out crowd of Maluca fans.
Favorite Track: Once again, I cannot choose exactly which favorite I have. I might have to opt out of it just this once, as half of the EP contains songs by other producers who featured her. They are still incredible tracks, so I absolutely cannot pick. I love all of them, let’s just put it that way.

#10. Florence + the Machine, Lungs

 

Why I like it: This is probably the most unique album on my list, but for a very good reason. Unlike all the other albums on this list, Lungs is a very pure, organic sound coming from one of the best bands to hit the mainstream in a very long time. Florence has a beautiful, husky voice that floods your ears with real, raw emotion, exhibiting clever and insightful lyrics.
Favorite Track: “Cosmic Love.” A song about love and dedication, this song will really pull your heart out. And the music matches perfectly with title, as the loud percussion and intensity in Florence’s voice propels your soul through the stars. I cried the first couple times I heard this track because it is so inspiring and perfectly made.

Honorable Mention: Iamamiwhoami

First, to clarify, this isn’t a finished album. Though the tracks have been sold on iTunes, I don’t think any major fans like myself know what’s exactly going on with the sale and distribution of the music.
Iamamiwhoami first came onto the scene a little over a year ago, releasing a bizarre video on YouTube of trees with human-like limbs. Then, month after month, more videos appeared, containing strange images with even stranger music. This spurred a large following, and each video went viral, drawing even more people into this mysterious craze.
The blonde female subject in the video was the original focus of the followers. Some speculated it was Christina Aguilera, with Bionic coming out and all. Others suspected a variety of other artists (which I believe led me to find the Golden Filter). Turns out that it is Jonna Lee, a cute little Swedish singer with a folksy musical style. Not so much any more.
The videos fall back on a series of themes, including the legend of the mandrake plant and other naturalist themes, though it explores ideas of relationships, spirituality, and death.

Not much more can be said about this musical phenomenon (yeah, it’s that awesome.) All I ask is that you take a couple hours of your time and watch all the videos here, beginning to end: http://www.youtube.com/iamamiwhoami.

As a final note, there are a lot of questions left unanswered. I certainly hope this continues.

Honorable Mention: How to Destroy Angels

Another EP, though with only a few tracks. This is a project led by the one and only Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, partnered with his wife Mariqueen Maandig, and Atticus Ross.
Though only a few tracks, within those few tracks is a deep, dark feeling of domination, hopelessness,  and wrath. And I LOVE IT. I highly recommend watching the video for “The Space in Between,” as it is a beautifully-produced artistic music video:

Please leave your thoughts (favorable or constructively opposed), and let me know what your top albums this year were!