i’m a fireball

image by lars hammer via flickr

There is something about repetitive physical movement that lends itself to reflection. Or maybe it’s the oxytocin or whatever it is that gives you that runner’s high. Well, I don’t actually run much, but I do walk fast.

My usual routine is to call up a good book on my ipad as I listen to music that has no lyrics, or at least none I can comprehend. Bollywood via pandora works quite well, or sometimes classical music. On the days when I need extra moti-va-tion, I just need crazy loud banging music, and video to go with it.

It’s not easy to find, requiring the coordination of keeping up your pace while you bounce from one music channel to the next, trying to skip the workout-killing commercials, usually for proactive or ringtones (neither of which I’m in the market for, thank god). I wince my way through the more raunchy rap songs and yawn through the goofy white boy videos and every now and then there is a song that makes my body move fast and fluid, at the same time capturing my attention visually.

My daughter is doing a group project in which they created a tumblr of images and words about women and how they are represented in the media, about empowerment and weeding through the marketing and the hype which controls these. When I watch music videos I often have in mind that these are the images that form the lexicon of her generation, a thought which usually scares or depresses me, or both. (I grew up listening to James Taylor and Crosby Stills Nash & Young sprinkled with a bit of David Bowie, Lou Reed, Talking Heads, so go figure…)

Today my attention was drawn to two videos. The first one by Rihanna, which begins with her voiceover…

I saw you screaming and no one can hear. You almost feel ashamed that someone could be that important that without them, you feel like nothing. No one will ever understand how much it hurts. You feel hopeless, like nothing can save you. Then when it’s over, and it’s gone, you almost wish you could have all that bad stuff back, so that you could have the good…

Now, let me preface this with a disclaimer…I am no Rihanna fan. The first time I saw this video I did the mom thing and thought only of how these images, some really very graphic and disturbing, are fed to kids like toxic sugar along with a danceable tune. But then I watched it again, this time for the story, because you know there are stories everywhere.

“We found love in a hopeless place” captures the spinning madness of a bad relationship fed by drugs and sex and aching hopelessness. I hope that its message, which may be clouded by a few too many booty shots of Rihanna, comes across…for it is one about choices, about finding yourself in an out of control situation (that image of her vomiting in an alley where what comes out of her mouth are long flowing ribbons is amazing) and crawling your way out, with difficulty, with sadness. The video haunts me the way a really good book does, the characters are alive, the stories told in its brief moments are very poignant and profound. Call me crazy, I know. Sometimes I find beauty in the strangest, most hopeless places.

OK, so then I watched this video called “Ass Back Home,” (seriously, that’s the title). The story here is the classic man leaves woman to make da money (in this case, he goes on tour), and she keeps the home fires burning. I suppose the message is a good one, since he does seem to stay true to her “No one holds me down like you do, sweetheat/You keep doing that, I’ll keep doing this/We’ll be all right in the end/Trust that/We put the us in trust, baby,” but there’s something a bit disturbing about the message the girl sends. Despite her pink hair and piercings, she’s really kind of a pathetic throwback to the very unempowered image of the classic 50’s cookie-baking housewife. She waits for him, the chorus her voice repeating…

I don’t care what you’re after
As long as I’m the one,
no I don’t care why you’re leaving
You’ll miss me when you’re gone

I don’t know where you’re going
Or when you’re coming home
I left the keys under the mat to our front door
For one more chance to hold you close

I don’t know where you’re going
Just get your ass back home

Granted now, he does come home, so maybe he’s not all that bad, making it the punked out version of those purity videos, although I would bet that part II of this story isn’t as purty.

Last, and least, was Will Smith and Jada Pinkett’s child, Willow, in her latest video, “Fireball.”

I’m sure my 9-year-old would love this. And I have to say, there’s something so alien-like and catchy about the non-existent lyrics “I’m the fireball of the party, I’m the fi-ah, I’m the fi-ah” over and over and over, and the way she moves. It’s a perfect treadmill song, sans story, good beat.

Off I go to be the fireball of the shower…see ya.

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