Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tuesdays with Marty: 2/09/10

Note: Tuesdays with Marty is a recurring segment on Et tu, Mr. Destructo? highlighting the opinions of our publisher, Marty Peretz. Mr. Peretz wishes to make it absolutely clear that he is neither responsible nor liable for any content in this site, including but not limited to words, ideas, images, and things implied by said means of communication, in addition to other forms of communication not involving the above methods, whether established or theoretical in nature.

The New International Blindness: All Agog over Gaga Makes One Gag

This year I watched the Grammys at the home of a good friend and midway through the night thanked him that he had provided me an excuse to give away TNR's annual invitation. It came as no surprise that music's ritual celebration of itself turned a self-congratulatory gaze inward and away from the international stage yet again. That it again celebrated a re-branding of the old should also come as no surprise. But this year that it did so with such sybaritic glee seemed appropriate, fiddling as the children burned CDs of their own creation, another district of the New Rome of Hollywood ablaze and consuming revenue. It was the only satisfaction of the evening.

The undoubted star of the affair was pop idol Lady Gaga, pop manufacture's soi-disant queen of the new decade, but to old vinyl collectors and industry watchers, she's another batch of the same pabulum. Much as our current President churns out new and dizzying-seeming rhetoric—a wise ear knows it is assembled from the nobler passages of the Kennedy Inaugural, FDR's fireside chats and even some beats of Reagan—what passes for substance in Lady Gaga cannot be sustained past an initial listen.

Gaga's glam lays out Bowie and Queen filtered through Madonna Magic and glistened with post-production synth and derivations of more animate hip-hop beats. Like our Commander-in-Chief, at first blush, the background might seem like it comes from the street, but instead it comes from studio magic—musical veneer, like repairing a house divided by surrounding it with a new layer of vinyl siding.

These effects try to obfuscate the atavistic decline that her music presents. Bowie is over 40, Queen over 35 and Madonna over 30, and their glam poses have all faded with the harsh judgment of posterity as disinfectant sunlight cleans off the rot growing on Western decline. Gaga offers us a new glam shellacked over a crumbling structure. With a little house spun by Usher, her edifice will surely fall.

Beyond the dead breeze of her music, the undeniable frisson of the night came from Gaga's outfit, so tight as to be considered less sartorial than labial, her answer to the question of whether a pipe lay hidden instead of a velvet glove. Of course, that old metaphor of iron lying in velvet has never applied better to a people than to the tenacious Israelis. Tragic then that it was Gaga's nomination for "Poker Face" for Song of the Year that undoubtedly prevented Israeli hip-hop master, Subminal (סאבלימינל) from being nominated, delaying that people's resiliency in dropping devastating beats from being recognized another year.

Subliminal (real name: Ya'akov "Kobi" Shimoni, or יעקב "קובי" שמעוני) released a stunning track this year, "Alay" (עלי), which in its power and rawness instantly pointed up the difference between the bold outlaw/lawman frontier mentality of advancing Israeli hip-hop and the antiquarian death rattle of Old World glam and "rockism," whose banners of change and announcement of New Frontiers cannot compete with sick bass and rimshot resonance.

The song, the first off the highly anticipated forthcoming Westbank Killah album (most of which was written, rehearsed and recorded on his 2009 "Dead from the GZA Strip" tour), seduces the listener with precisely the glam sheen that Gaga hopes to evoke, yet here it comes naturally. It extends the velvet glove before the beats drop like rain and sick bass loops encircle you behind a wall of sound that's no specter—no, this one is real. Just as Subliminal made the Star of David a clothing emblem and conversational byword from the hottest of topics, the disparate elements of sweet femininity, a machine-gun flow that pops with precision, hooks and samples that work their way into you and take up residence and a thundering beat come together in a dynamic unity of sound that drives out any other MC or rhyme that might already have been stuck in your head.

Of course, I have no doubt that the album, too, will be ignored by American media too enamored of its own concerns and preconceived notions of hip-hop to look past its biases to authentic new musical trends arising from the embattled streets. The Rolling Stones and Pitchforks will join with the superannuated opinions of NME to turn European ears toward the conceptual product of the Anglo-American alliance forged first when Muddy Waters went East and reinforced when the British invaded West.

They will celebrate any act that represents even a token gesture of newness, especially if it can co-opt an internationalist sound and clutch at the swaddling legitimacy of world music. In this, the beats of Subliminal, his message and his countrymen are marginalized and spurned by the world around them. Not categorizable as the only Israeli music the West knows—Klezmer, the jolly dancing tunes of defamatory stereotypes of the culture, Hasidim and a cracked wine glass at weddings—it will become just the Other, music that is wrong because it does not embrace the rhythms and narratives of the Anglo-American dialogue... music that goes ignored.

As I remarked to my friend at the time, if the fading lights of the RIAA and the Grammy marquees tell us anything, it is that they are beats that the West ignores at its own peril.


  1. Shit, Marty, did you really need to use all those words when you simply could have said "that tranny sucks!" instead?

  2. Marty's a bit of a douche for not mentioning that Dana Internationale is a tranny. "She" looked all sexy 'n' interesting in that video (very good plastic surgeons, one supposes) and I was going to make an effort to jerk it to "her" later in the evening. Then I remembered that this is the internet and was wise enough to look up The Truth (trademark) before any five-knuckle shuffling occurred. So thanks for nothing, Marty, you putz. You almost made me look like an idiot and feel like a homo.

    PS: just for argument's sake, let's say I'm at a club and meet Dana for real and, to cut to the chase, "she" ends up blowing me in one of the bathroom stalls. Does that still make me gay for not knowing that it's a guy who's working the hummer magic on me? Just wondering because I actually take these sort of instances kind of seriously when they happen.

  3. Marty's just pissed off because the last couple of weeks haven't been very good to him. First, New Republic's campaign to smear Andrew Sullivan as an anti-Semite bombed miserably, with numerous other bloggers (including Sullivan's foes) coming to his defense and stating that the anti-semitic labelling against him was all garbage; Sullivan's kind of a gay version of the drill sargeant from "Full Metal Jacket" these days anyway, in that he now hates everyone on the left and right equally.

    Second, Marty Googled "Trannies Of The Levantine Coast", totally misunderstood the sales pitch, booked a tour with them, and came back home just a tad horrified. Coming back from vacation with a bleeding rectum probably didn't do too much to help out his disposition either. I can see this last trauma staying with him for a while, because if the same thing happened to me I know I'd be freaking the shit out for a long time afterwards too. Not all Jewish trannies are as nice and polite as Dana Internacional.


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