a priori/a posteriori

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Necessary Illusion

Bands. They exist beyond our expectations. We typically hear a band long before we ever actually see what they look like. So, in our minds, they exist the way characters in a book exist, perfectly molded to our biases and desires. When you finally see the band live that you'd previously only heard in Pandora, Spotify or MP3 form before, you bring them out of the realm of imagination and and put them under the lights of tangible scrutiny. They fail to live up to what we saw in our minds eye. How can a band that brings me so much joy look like the table of kids I ignored all throughout high school?

As odd as it might sound, in some ways, bands owe it to us to exist in an ethereal plane of awesomeness that no mere mortal could ever hope to live in or even conceive. The contract we have with our distractions in life is simple: in exchange for all the troubles we endure, we ask that our distractions distract us. When a band fails to meet our preconceived expectations, we are no longer distracted. We become focused on a reality that makes everything more bleak. The band looks just like me, yet I work all day and don't get nearly as much pussy as them.


Of course, not all bands disappoint us upon inspection. Some, like Weezer, Daft Punk, and GWAR, perhaps, look exactly like what you'd think they look like. The way they sound and the way they look exists on at a 1:1 ratio. Others, however, don't match up. The analog sounds of a band like Black Moth Super Rainbow makes me think of the sounds folk robots on acid would have made to accompany the opening sequence to Reading Rainbow. In reality the lead singer looks kind of like he would be willing to argue why Limp Bizkit's 3 Dollar Bill, Ya'll deserves more credit than it once got. I want my bands to look as if the philosophy behind their music has infected every aspect of their life. Black Moth Super Rainbow seem too aware of how they should look, and have made a conscious choice to not look that way. How can a guy who looks like that make music I enjoy? What else in my life am I wrong about? Well, this, for example.

Black Moth Super Rainbow

When it comes to top 10 pop stars, my expectations of them are so low that when I see one wearing a multi-colored unitard, being groped by generic manifestations of sexy, while singing about something everyone can relate too (love, old love, new love, overcoming love, dying love, bitches, etc), I kind of assumed that's what they were going to look like. Most of them are clowns, wearing the make up of celebrity. And that makes sense because celebrity isn't about permanence, it's about continually figuring out new ways to sell their idea of celebrity to a mass market. So in some ways, the pop star who ascribes to not having an actual identity is more authentic to their core values than someone who distances themselves from what they do. We don't have to be gay to live in a closet.

Pop stars are bound to the philosophy that they must constantly change to please their fickle audiences. This is why people like Lady Gaga must constantly be seen wearing ridiculous outfits, because if she didn't, that would be even more ridiculous. The stylistic vanguard she ushers in while walking the red carpet would eventually hold her back if she were to become defined by it. If the guy who works a cubicle over from you wore a different, generic button up every day, would you remember if he word the blue one on Monday, and the purple one on Tuesday? You'd probably just think of him as the guy who wears the button ups. We don't think of Gaga as the "meat dress girl."

The idea of wearing a meat dress (or any bull shit outfit) is not so hard to absorb if you think of it within the context of her wardrobe.  One day she's wearing meat, the next she's wearing some Art Deco . In the grand scheme, all of her outfits make sense, but when taken on a day to day basis, they are eye-catchingly absurd. But her wardrobe is absurd, and every outfit fits into that theme. We don't think of her as the "meat dress girl" because we think of her as the person who always wears fucked up clothes.

Her style of celebrity only runs into tricky territory when we, the public, kind of know what she's going to wear. We know she's going to wear something bizarre. At some point, it's not what she's wearing that we anticipate, it's how it will make us feel that we anticipate. Figuring out how to push the boundaries of what people expect is what she has to do in order to keep the spending public interested in her. This is especially tough when we expect her to do that. The freedom she has given herself when picking out outfits has, in someways, limited her to the outlandish attire we know her to wear. At one point, her outfit selection was a genuine reflection of her approach to celebrity, but at some point she'll hit a threshold wherein she becomes a caricature of her former self. You can tell when a celebrity has reached this point when a drag queen beats out the celebrity in their own look-alike-contest.

If Lady Gaga were to dress "normal," like wearing off-the-shelf GAP clothing, it would really fuck up our expectations. But it wouldn't fuck up our expectations of her. It would fuck up expectations of ourselves. If she wore off the rack retail clothing that we wear every day, Gaga would appear so normal that it might feel like she was mocking us. Like a backhanded compliment. We might think that the only reason she would wear retail clothing would be to express her displeasure with our cookie-cutter suburbia lifestyle. It would be her commentary on how behind the closed doors of picaresque houses, there usually lies some dark secret. Child pornography, spousal abuse, incest, internet piracy, boredom, unfulfilled lives. Nothing is more unsettling than what appears too normal. Like the women of Stepford, Lady Gaga looking like one of us would highlight the absurdity of what we consider normal.

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