Monday, June 14, 2010

It List: Monday

Erykah Badu/B.o.B/Janelle Monae (Verizon Theater): Badu is playing to her hometown crowd, in support of her most recent release, New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh, but of course the conversation for months on end has been about almost anything but her music. Now a lot of people may groan about that, and with eyes rolled, talk about how "music is just sound" and if you "write good songs" that's all that matters etc., but that's never the entire story. Some people are just so interesting they can get away with music that isn't always well-written, or the catchiest, or contains the best beats, or any music-as-sports cliches about what makes any piece of art "the best" or better than any other.

Now with Badu, I think her music has definitely had different levels of successfully catching your attention; sometimes willfully unconventional and sometimes unabashedly destined-for-the-charts. When she's at her best, it's a little of both. However, I think the distinction between her and her peers is that there always seems to be this push, or effort to constantly reach outside of the often strict and rigid structure of what makes a hit record for someone having to worry about moving a ton of product every couple of years. That's something that most people just can't fathom even if they are trying to follow the hoary rules of showbiz.

Badu's video for "Window Seat" was such a local scandal that it became the leading story on the DFW nightly news for days. That's something that has pretty much never happened with any artist in Dallas music history as far as I can tell. If you have a better example, please let us know. You can call it a publicity stunt, exhibitionism, performance art, hey, dismiss it however you want but I will say this: Anytime I've been outside of Dallas since the video was made or talk to out-of-town friends, they are fascinated by this event, and want to know everything they can about how it was perceived around town. There was a certain amount of actual shock here. Somebody from Dallas actually made an artistic statement and people reacted. A lot of people reacted. The police got involved. Discussions were had. This wasn't the work of some overpaid hotshot publicist or a backroom label deal to get a video played on some hip website. This was an actual expression that evoked natural reactions: both good and bad, but passionate either way. And this wasn't from some underground metal or noise act or a performance art extremist, but someone with many eyes on her and everything to lose. Actual guts, actual feelings hurt, and a longtime local stigma shown with a brand new perspective by way of a pretty low-tech video and a few shed articles of clothing. Badu radically pushed much needed lofty and ambitious concepts back into pop music if even for a bit, and I gladly discuss the video she made over plenty of other things I'm sick of being associated with in the never-ending discussion of Dallas music.

Screening: El Laberinto Del Fauno AKA Pan's Labyrinth (Texas Theatre): Wow, and what do you know? An actual movie is playing at the Texas Theatre. What do you think Dallas? Are we still the "City Of Hate?" Or are we "over it?"


Cool Out (The Cavern)


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