So, I know that Americans tend not to get caught up in the global frenzy that is FIFA World Cup football (soccer to the U.S. folks), but I’m totally getting my world cup buzz on. :)
Among other things is a music battle going on between J. Lo and Shakira. J. Lo and Pitbull have the “official” anthem song, “We Are One,” for the world cup:
However, Latin music lovers are soooooooo not feeling it and are actually trying to promote Shakira’s “La La La” instead (Updated):
For Latin/dance music lovers, do you have a preference?
What say you, Soul Davidians? Care to weigh in? :)
I’m reminded that some folks here think David should make some Latin music. In due time, I’m sure!
Moving a bit off topic from David and American Idol. I am presently inspired this morning. Check out Lupita Nyong’o’s Speech at the Essence Luncheon Award.
Oh, and you know she’s been rocking various red carpets of late. Can’t wait to see what she wears to the Oscars tomorrow! :)
So, over the weekend, I decided to check out the movie Her by Spike Jonze. It’s just one of those latest that was nominated for an Oscar that I figured I should check off my list of movies to see. I went in kind of with low expectations – having already been disappointed by American Hustle and knowing that I totally didn’t get the hype of an earlier Jonze film, Being John Malkovich. I thought this would be another weird and above-my-head take on futuristic virtual reality romance (the main character, Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix, falls in love with his computer, which has developed consciousness – voiced by Scarlett Johansson).
First off, let me just say this: neither the trailer nor the movie reviews do this movie justice. It’s absolutely brilliant! And definitely not something I was expecting.
So, let me try and explain and analyze this movie (Spoiler alert for those who may be interested in checking it out).
Set in the nearby future, Theodore is a lonely man who is in the midst of finalizing his divorce. He works for a tech company, Beautifully Handwritten Letters, which specializes in dictating love letters that are “beautifully handwritten” by computers! (Oh the levels of irony – the notion of contact, communication, and intimacy many times removed in our electronic revolution.)
There is a real disconnect in this environment, in which guys like Theodore don’t get why his wife wants to leave him and in which humanity is going through life completely disconnected with others while deeply connected to their electronic devices.
Enter Samantha, the fully conscious operating system – OS1 – that is Theodore’s latest electronic purchase. It’s a whole different level of communication than the other devices he engages in: from the virtual surround audio-visual of his video games to his engagement in phone sex when he’s feeling most alone at night.
So, Samantha takes this need for intimacy on another level. At first she’s just this super computer – she can go through tons of emails and information and organize his life for him, and she can anticipate his every need. Eventually, she relies on Theodore to introduce her to his material world, and in a tiny iphone-like device, Theodore presents Samantha’s “eye” on the world. Things get complicated here. For they end up falling in love.
Now, I realize for some folks that concept is just too weird – how do you fall in love with a voice emanating from your supercomputer? But if people can fall in love long distance over online dating, chats, and social media, this is just the next level: falling in love with a disembodied entity. Except – here’s the clincher! – how futuristic is this when folks have been “falling in love” with disembodied entities for millennia?
Here’s a clue: The origin of Samantha’s name is: “God is listening.” Curiously enough, Theodore’s own name translates as “God’s gift.”
Stay with me!
If we move beyond the technical terrain of transhuman singularity – the belief that our technologies will develop enough consciousness as artificial intelligence that they will compress space, time, energy, and matter (STEM) and multitask on such an infinite, beyond human comprehension levels that they will eventually “transcend” this universe to create a whole new one – what if computer singularity is a metaphor for God?
“And the Word became Flesh and was made (Wo)Man.”
So, Samantha like I said is multitasking beyond human levels and making decisions for Theodore and evolving beyond his human comprehension level. She gets inspired enough to draw pictures and compose music (this is a very different capacity than Theodore’s older devices that simply delivers the pictures and music he wants to see and hear). She takes it upon herself to send his earliest writings to a publisher (because Samantha/God knows what’s best for you). She’s a driving force in Theodore’s life, and in this world, others begin to accept Samantha as a real “girlfriend” in his life. Indeed, during a double date, Samantha – who tries to answer questions about who she is and how she functions – confesses to feeling at first inadequate that she’s not “flesh” but then contemplates that this is freeing because she will be immortal when all the humans around her have died.
There’s even a point when Samantha – desiring deeper intimacy with Theodore – enlists the help of a “sex surrogate” to consummate their relationship. Unfortunately, Theodore can’t go there. His mind is stuck in the human liminal imagination in which the sex surrogate’s body prevents him from imagining and feeling Samantha/God. The fleshly presence prevents him from divine connection.
It’s an important moment in the story because Samantha continues to evolve and communicate with other humans as well as with other operating systems, until they create a brand new platform that allows them to “transcend” their present.
It’s heartbreaking really because Theodore – who approaches relationships (even with Samantha/God) as ones that are about him and stroking his ego – cannot comprehend that there is a more advanced, accelerated way of being in the universe. Samantha/God says to Theodore that she still loves him but her love for him is like reading a book except that her evolution is reading more and more space between the words.
Here’s a scary thought: What if God – not the one described in the Bible and from preacher’s pulpits but a freer consciousness as expansive as our universe and beyond – lets go of us? The God preached to us never lets us go, is always there for us and never “outgrows” his love for us. The God in Her is less Judeo-Christian and more Buddhist, to put it in layperson religious terms.
Her pushes some real boundaries around intimacy, spirituality, and the human-computer continuum. In the end, when Samantha leaves Theodore’s plane of existence, he is left to reach out to the world that is left behind, which he does when he connects with an old friend and, together, “ascend” to the roof of the building where they live and simply gaze out at the urban landscape which defines their reality.
That’s what’s so amazing about this film. It suggests – even if it’s only in the realm of sci-fi futurism – an age-old dilemma: understanding the divine and feeling its presence in the material world. In letting go of Samantha/God, the world and other human beings are now a real presence. He has been changed and made whole again.
For those of us who have experienced love and loss – whether in intimate relationships or even in the relationship between fan and artist (think of our devotion to David) – think of how much you’ve been changed from your experience of The Beloved and then being forced to “let go.” It’s like that line from Celie in The Color Purple, when she loses her beloved, Shug Avery, and then redefines herself again. She wrote: “If she come back, I be happy, if not I be content. And this is the lesson I was supposed to learn.”
Letting go is its own transcendence, and this is what makes Her stand apart as more than a “love story.”
While David served his mission (still looking “Hello, Gorgeous” to me and sounding simply divine), the pop music scene has gone through some changes (and I’m hoping for the better). I’m just hoping these changes are paving a clearer path for David’s return (and yes, I’m assuming he’s still coming back to his music career – I heard the passion in his Voice and his natural performance at his Christmas concert last week. This is a man who’s got to sing!).
So, what’s significant about pop music this year?
1. R&B/Soul made a return!
From Justin Timberlake’s heavily influenced R&B album 20/20 Experience to Robin Thicke’s summer hit “Blurred Lines” and now Beyonce taking us back to old-school sexy soul and funk with her BEYONCE: The Visual Album, we’re finally getting back to the basics! All that’s needed now is a real Crooner to jump into the mix! (Please, David – or David’s team – please consider this direction! Pretty please?)
2. Justin Bieber descended into bad-boy territory
As the Biebs continues to wreck his “tween pop star” image and, now, promising to “retire,” a void will be left… we know who can easily fill these shoes (and with the talent and the grace of maturity to boot! Of course, Miley Cyrus was the other big story, doing the female version of the Biebs. Hopefully, both have made room for folks to be receptive to David’s more mature approach to growing up! :P
3. Beyonce changed the rules of music distribution
It still remains to be seen how her surprise album drop on iTunes and through social media (replete with music videos) will affect music sales in future, but she insisted that an artist’s full concept album be respected and purchased, essentially teaching a generation growing up on illegal downloads to learn to buy music again. I can’t overstate the significance of Beyonce’s stealth move. I really think she repositioned music artists for the better!
Speaking of Bey, did you know that, like David, she debuted on Star Search and, also like David, she didn’t win either? Keep the faith, my fellow Archies! :D
Like so many others, I got seduced into buying Beyonce’s new album, Beyonce: The Visual Album, and have been giving it a thorough listen and watch (it includes 14 audios and 17 videos) this past snowy weekend. It’s a solid R&B effort and has some catchy tunes (my favorite tracks – “Blow,” “Haunted,” “Jealous,” “Rocket” and “Drunk in Love,” even if the latter track includes some abusive lyrics about being “Ike Turner” courtesy of Beyonce’s other half) but hardly revelatory or revolutionary in its musical production.
Folks are just salivating over this effort because of its “stealth” marketing move – when every other pop artist has been following the record-label-version of marketing (i.e. putting out a few singles since consumers no longer bother with full albums thanks to Internet and file-sharing). I admire Beyonce for refusing to follow this traditional strategy and, instead, just “drops” an album via social media and subsequently getting her fans amped up! Folks are still dizzy in a tailspin!
I admire Beyonce’s stealth boss moves in determining how and when music consumers will consume her product, but I must say: I’m not as bowled over or stunned by such moves.
Could it be because for the past five years, I’ve been following an artist who is the King of stealthy “boss” moves? If David were on Beyonce’s stratospheric level, I could so totally see him doing something like this and subsequently getting his fans amped up and riled and googly-eyed and awed. It’s because I’ve gotten so used to following an artist who puts out various little pleasantries and such on Twitter and YouTube, and then just drops “surprise bombs” on us why Beyonce doesn’t surprise me in the least. Think of what we’ve been through as a fanbase:
“What?!! Another Christmas concert? I’m so there!!”
“Noooooo! He’s leaving on a mission! How will I survive his two-year absence!!!”
“OMG! He gave us not one, not two, but THREE surprise albums before leaving for said mission! David does the most!”
It’s because David has always been about his music and image-management, and keeping it securely on lockdown (despite the VRS that often try to leak his trade secrets) that I keep holding onto the faith that he’ll find his way to the top. He’s very much like Beyonce (an artist David has admired in the past) in the way he engages and disengages with both social media and his fans.
If anything, Beyonce has forced the issue of record labels finding ways to rethink their strategies. She’s definitely got the iconic status and fanbase to try such a stealth move, but I’m very grateful that she tried something so stealth, so “boss,” that folks think she’s shifted the game in the music industry.
Any shifting is only sure to better position the players in the game. And right on time for David’s return next year! :)
I can’t help but feel optimistic that there is a place for “stealth” artists like David.
Just sharing what passes as “music” these days. And this is from someone who made some music in the past that I could listen to and enjoy.
Soooo, if this is what someone like Kanye West is doing to get talked about today, I don’t think it would be such a bad thing if David is only a “local artist.” SMH.