FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Katy Perry Meets Mozart

by DAVID YEARSLEY

There’s no publicity cheaper nor more effective than censure. When Jean-Luc Godard’s, Hail, Mary, a modern re-telling of the Virgin Birth was condemned by the Archdiocese of Boston in 1985, the pious outrage only sent more people to see the film.  The Catholic condemnation centered not on the updating of the story to modern times, with Mary a gas-station attendant and Joseph a cab driver, but on the way Godard’s camera lovingly explored the full-frontal contours, the peaks and valleys, of Myriem Roussel’s exquisite form.  Theologically speaking, the Virginal body, in any representation, should not be so zealously inspected:  the Conception, it seems, was not only immaculate, but fully-clothed.

Alerted to the high point of the movie by John Paul II and the Boston Archbishop Bernard Cardinal Law — who, as history would show us, should have had his mind on the lecherous intentions of some of his priests, rather than the visual proclivities of cinema-goers — e hastened in late-adolescent droves to the Orson Welles Cinema in Cambridge, Massachusetts to see the film.

Sadly, the film was a snoozer, and the fact that Mary’s body was for a few tender moments the object of Godard’s gaze, did not add much to the torpor I felt in that sold-out darkness. Law must never have seen the film, for there was nothing in the offending scene of the eroticism that marked Godard’s previous attentions to the naked bodies of Jean Seberg in Breathless and Brigitte Bardot in Contempt: it turned out that the director had treated Mary with true and chaste devotion.

Still, retribution was forthcoming.  The Orson Welles theatre was destroyed by fire a few months later. I have not ruled out foul play, be it divine or human …

Less dazzling than the pontifical white and cardinal red of Wojtyla and Law’s cassocks and are the vestments of displeasure donned by pop commentators during the recent rise of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” and its more provocative companion “UR So Gay” to the top of the single charts both in the US and the UK. If not for the shouts of disapproval over the cleverly irreverent lyrics and magnificently superficial music, the likes of this Bach-loving, Proms-listening, clavichord-playing, Musical Patriot would never have pulled his nose from this musty manuscript of Renaissance polyphony.

The main charge against Perry is insensitivity to gay people. The song opens with the hackle-raising: “I hope you hang yourself with your H&M scarf/While jacking off listening to Mozart.” First, I’ll allow myself a fusty chortle over the contorted semi-rhyme of “scarf” with “Mozart,” predicated as it is on the incorrect pronunciation of the Austrian Wunderkind’s name. Asphyxo-auto-eroticism gone awry with the aid of the finale of the Jupiter Symphony and a tastefully chosen accessory—Mozart will never be the same after this tableau has impressed itself on the classical connoisseur’s imagination. Still, Mozarteans might take comfort that their man has gotten his biggest boost ever through this undreamt-of gift of product placement. Mozart may be “gay” but at least he’s out of the closet and onto the center stage — or better still the iPod — of global pop culture.

The song uses “gay” in its pejorative, colloquial sense, and that is a bad thing. That the text is funny is a major inconvenience. The fair-minded will surely turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to this trash. But not before one more look and listen.

I could go on with a disquisition on the hypnotic melancholy of the song’s unlikely hook — a lengthy (by the standards of pop) minor rumination with echoes of Ennio Morricone’s “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” whistling across the Perry video’s mock-happy blue sky backdrop. I might also comment at great length on the counterpoint between this wistful instrumental undergirding and the coldly delivered insults of the song’s text. But I won’t.  Rather I’ll simply say that the video, which stars the dolls Ken and Barbie, with Perry as the dyspeptic, guitar-strumming narrator, confronts a question that has haunted generations of children:  the dubious status of Ken’s gender.  Why is there nothing down there?

Does the song say that gay men are, like Ken, emasculated?  Certainly not.  Rather, I see “UR So Gay” as a brave confrontation, cloaked in acerbic humor, with the primal moment of millions of American childhoods. Relive if you dare, all you boys and girls, that morning when you pulled open the drawers of the arch-suburban male effigy and got that first shocking look …

f anyone should be offended by all this it is the real butt of Perry’s sly diatribe—the sensitive, so-called “heterosexual,” male, who, as the lyrics would have it, acts “so gay, and doesn’t even like boys.” He must endure all the raised eyebrows and murmuring questions about his sexual orientation, simply because, according to Perry, he likes Mozart, nice scarves, electric cars, and must have sun screen of “SPF 45, just to stay alive”—ouch! another slashing bit of doggerel that cuts me to the quick. I’m going to put down that Palestrina manuscript right now, and go rotate the tires on my Hummer in full view of all the neighbors.

But not before I have my way with Perry’s international mega-hit “I Kissed a Girl.” This over-produced, electro-shock dance number also conjures the specter of same-sex eros. It’s guilty of offense mainly by association with “UR So Gay,” but also because the meeting of lips is, as it were, glossed as mindless fun, done “just to try it.” The kiss is merely Perry’s “experimental game” and its lingering “taste” of the kissee’s “cherry chapstick” bears no promise of lasting love, not to mention, same-sex marriage.

The video begins with tracking shots of Perry recumbent on a king leisure bed, wearing the smallest of possible tutus and stroking a kitty. This cinematic version of erotic massage is intercut with jerky images from a girls-only dance party featuring red-leather gloves, diverse bustiers, and fishnet stockings.

Though throbbing with excitement over the girl-girl kiss, the video never actually shows us that supposedly transgressive act. Instead, Perry stares saucily into the camera while the camera caresses her in a manner reminiscent of Godard, though the great auteur would doubtless be disgusted by the comparison. It is as if she is admiring herself in a two-way mirror, with the greedy consumers of her image lurking on the other side, as mesmerized with her bod as she herself is.

Perry’s publicity machine has cleverly amped up the titillation factor by prompting commentators to recall that both the popstar’s parents are Methodist missionaries still circling the globe to spread the Word.  The full-leather rig means so much more when it is worn by the naughty preacher’s daughter. But when the world—including mom and dad—is watching, little Katy turns out to be a good girl after all. She’ll tell, but she won’t kiss.

At its close,  the video informs us that it was all only a fantasy. Perry wakes up next to her slumbering male bedmate with a mischievous grin on her face. The video and the dream are over. But what really must anger those offended by all this is that the tune and the words that cling to it so greedily are still in our mind and on our lips. And on theirs, too.

The links for the videos:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YNtyiBio84&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKHysOO1Mes

DAVID YEARSLEY teaches at Cornell University. A long-time contributor to the Anderson Valley Advertiser, he is author of Bach and the Meanings of Counterpoint His latest CD, “All Your Cares Beguile: Songs and Sonatas from Baroque London”, has just been released by Musica Omnia. He can be reached at dgy2@cornell.edu

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

DAVID YEARSLEY is a long-time contributor to CounterPunch and the Anderson Valley Advertiser. His recording of J. S. Bach’s organ trio sonatas is available from Musica Omnia. He can be reached at  dgyearsley@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Clobbers Ocean Life
Patrick Cockburn
The Terrifying Parallels Between Trump and Erdogan
Kenneth Surin
The Neoliberal Stranglehold on the American Public University
Lawrence Davidson
Is There a Future for the Democratic Party?
Robert Fisk
The Foreign Correspondent in the Age of Twitter and Trump
Dale Bryan
“Where Do We Go from Here?”
David Swanson
The Deep State Wants to Deep Six Us
Dan Bacher
Obama Administration Orders Speedy Completion of Delta Tunnels Plan
Mark Weisbrot
Obama Should Make Sure that Haitian Victims of UN-Caused Cholera are Compensated
Winslow Myers
The Light of the World
Bruce Mastron
My Latest Reason to Boycott the NFL: Guns
Weekend Edition
January 13, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Gregory Elich
Did the Russians Really Hack the DNC?
Jeffrey St. Clair
The President Who Wasn’t There: Barack Obama’s Legacy of Impotence
Anthony DiMaggio
Ethics Fiasco: Trump, Divestment and the Perversion of Executive Politics
Joshua Frank
Farewell Obummer, Hello Golden Showers
Paul Street
Hit the Road, Barack: Some Farewell Reflections
Vijay Prashad
After Aleppo: the State of Syria
John Wight
Russia Must be Destroyed: John McCain and the Case of the Dodgy Dossier
Rob Urie
Meet the Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
The Russian Dossier Reminds Me of the Row Over Saddam’s WMDs
Eric Sommer
U.S.-China War: a Danger Hidden from the American People
Andrew Levine
Are Democrats Still the Lesser Evil?
Linda Pentz Gunter
What’s Really Behind the Indian Point Nuclear Deal?
Robert Fantina
Trucks, ‘Terror’ and Israel
Richard Moser
Universal Values are Revolutionary Values
Russell Mokhiber
Build the Bagdikian Wall: “Sponsored News” at the Washington Post
Yoav Litvin
Establishment Narcissism – The Democrats’ Game of Thrones
David Rosen
Return of the Repressed: Trump & the Revival of the Culture Wars
Robert Koehler
War Consciousness and the F-35
Rev. William Alberts
The New Smell of McCarthyism Demands Faith Leaders Speak Truth to Power
John Laforge
Federal Regulator Halts Move to Toughen Radiation Exposure Limits
Norman Pollack
Farewell Address: Nazification of Hope
David Swanson
Imagine the Confirmation Hearing for Secretary of Peace
CJ Hopkins
Why Ridiculous Official Propaganda Still Works
Ron Jacobs
Striking in Reagan Time
Missy Comley Beattie
The Streep
Graham Peebles
Climate Change: The Potential Impacts of Collective Inaction
Uri Avnery
Confessions of a Megalomaniac
Kenneth Worles
Black Without a Home: King’s Dream Still Deferred
Geoff Dutton
The Russian Patsy
Jill Richardson
The Coming War on Regulations
Jeremy Brecher
Resisting the Trump Agenda is Social Self-Defense
Peter Lee
Is Obama Behind the Hit on Trump?
Christopher Brauchli
Why Did Congress Do It? Because They Can
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail