24 November 2007

Shame on you, Jon Dolan.

This morning, whilst staying at my Dad's house for Thanksgiving break, I walked into the bathroom and found an issue of Blender boasting "THE 40 WORST LYRICISTS EVER!" on the cover. Hoping that this would be good for a laugh at Maroon 5 or Three 6, I crack the spine. Unfortunately I was surprised.

Either I have really awful taste in music that I haven't seemed to notice in the past five years, or Jon Dolan is trying very hard to win over readers with his ballsy critiques. Of course, I won't defend P. Diddy, Fred Durst, or Dashboard Confessional, but I was frankly quite appalled to find Matisyahu, Common, Ben Gibbard, and KRS-One among others torn to shreds.

Each miniature diatribe included a one-line excerpt from a song by the artist in contempt; i.e. Ben Gibbard: “Your heart is a river that flows from your chest/Through every organ/Your brain is the dam/And I am the fish who can’t reach the core”. Alright, alright, if this was on display on a page of a poetry collection, I'd skip over to the next, but it seems Dolan is simply poking fun at the metered rhythm that is missing when spoken aloud. However, Dolan seems to completely disregard the fact that the singer has otherwise made up for by inserting it unawkwardly into melody, making a song like "Lightness" something I would let play if it came on shuffle. Also, to be fair, Dolan picked one of the worst songs Gibbard has written. Perhaps he just scrolled through a lyrics website on a hunt for something embarrassing? Did Ben steal his girlfriend? Take his parking space?

The pretention only deepened when he criticized Matisyahu, (aka Matthew Miller) for referencing Zion and Babylon. Oy gevalt! Most reggae singers have ganja as an excuse for hazy lyrics about Zion and Babylon. Bodily pure Matthew Miller can only blame the truth and sunlight emanating from his “humble heart.” He's a devout Jew, ferChrissakes! Perhaps we should crucify Dolan for being an unobjective prick!

Of course, aside from the suffocating ego and bias of the article, it did raise a question in my mind, if only for a split second: Do I really have shitty taste in lyricists? Although I doubted myself momentarily, I had to wonder after reading Dolan's bashing of Sting, Bon Jovi, Jim Morrison, and Carly Simon, what does this guy have left to listen to? More importantly, who in his life hurt him so badly that he has become the worst kind of elitist, the archetype of insecure males bashing that which they are incapable of doing? I suspect Jon Dolan is the product of a bloody rejection from highschool choir, or a slam poetry night at a grungy coffee shop. In any case, I give Dolan 1 star out of ten, if only for his witty recognition of the easy potshots in his massacre of music.

21 November 2007

American Apparel: Hustler's protege?

Okay, I know American Apparel never claimed to be the answer to Abercrombie, but I suppose I took them for that upon the Memphis location's opening. It seemed as though they were doing the same thing for the different crowd, providing staples for the hipster's life. I mean, you've got to know who you're going to end up catering to if you advertise the fact your clothes are aren't made in sweatshops-- the ethically conscious. ....and all of their less-concerned, more fashionably-worried friends.

Yeah yeah, the clothes cost just as much as American Eagle because they're paying the workers decent wages. I get that. Some of the clothes are cute, sure, but I still can't spend $25 on a scarf, or $9 on a long braided hunk of rope they claim is a belt, nor could I bear to tie that rope around the waist of a skin-tight cotton spandex turtleneck jersey dress ($36).

I guess my biggest qualm with American Apparel is that they couldn't just be different. They sell vertically integrated goods, they host a amateur photography section on their website, and the only people I knew working at their stores were starving art students who got free clothes.

But then came the ads.

I can understand that in a high-competition market like clothes, you've got to play hard. AA is appealing to intelligent, ethical, artistically-aware crowd, but also a broke crowd. I suppose I can understand that there's got to be something more to take the A&F girls out of the mall and bring their daddy's credit cards downtown.

But the photography makes me sick.
Every week I open up a Memphis Flyer, and thirty minutes later, whilst I scan the back page for upcoming shows, I cannot help but look to the bottom. Which twelve-year-old boy-remniscient model will be wearing a unitard today?

I can see plainly that there are only so many things you can do with fashion photography, but from the standpoint of an artist, I am tired of seeing photographers (not limited to fashion at all) take the purposely amateur approach like it's a new thing. It's like Pollock throwing paint around like it was this huge discovery that paint drips. And yes, I do judge AA on their creative guile, because they are trying to sell their image to people like me.

Look at Abercrombie's ads. They are ridiculous and melodramatic. They sell winter coats by taking harshly-lit black & white photos of a fur-lined down jacket on a buff, sweaty, shirtless man, who obviously has no need for a winter coat, because he lives in a steamy penthouse in LA with an anorexic, yet sultry model, but spends his days in the desert making half-love to her.

American Apparel's photos don't even have the cheesy backstory, the feigned drama, the allure whatsoever. If A&F is Playboy, AA is Hustler. It's like someone watched too many Wes Anderson movies, sprinkled a few homely (pardon me, alternatively attractive..) models in (who are still skinny & somewhat shapely) with their gallery of stereotypically gorgeous models, and took high-flash pictures of them wearing nothing but the item being sold.

Hideous gold windbreaker? No shirt!

(I can't help but think they had a lot of awful gold material leftover from something, and they are trying desperately to make it into that, really-ugly-but-hip-because-you've-got-the-attitude-to-wear-it-kind-of-thing-to-sell-it.)

Yeah, it looks real hot on Missus Titty, but imagine some sweet, pudgy, thirteen year old Judy wanders into AA one day, so enraptured by these hot models who seem more believable in her mind than A&F girls, SPENDS FIFTY-EIGHT DOLLARS + TAX ON THIS GOLD LAME WINDBREAKER, and wears it to school. What do you think would happen? Take the windbreaker off the tits and think of it in another context, no, ANY context whatsoever. This jacket is awful, and poor little 7th grader Judy would get laughed out of school.

Socks! .....but no PANTIES.

You need a BARE ASS to sell me these socks? They're cute, I'd buy them if they were $10 less, but... WHO?! is it you are trying to sell these women's socks to? Me? OR MY FIFTEEN YEAR OLD BROTHER??!? Are you just hoping that I'm a horny lesbian?


I must add that when I first discovered their illustrious website, I actually loved the clothes, and loved the presentation. However, take a look at the fashion photography then:

Such taste! Such poise! Such natural lighting!