Friday, September 09, 2016

Britney Spears recorded a good album...and that's bad!

Britney Spears: Glory (RCA, 2016)

Glory just might be Britney Spears' most consistent album ever. And you can tell she wants us to bear down on it as an album because it kicks off with two slow tracks forcing our attention as if it were Tusk. Luckily for us, the work pays off. Except for the ballad "Just Luv Me" and the 2:21 French lesson tacked on to the Deluxe Edition, there's nary a bad cut on it. "Private Show" and "What You Need" give off an erotic tension by beginning over and over again with no middle eight or tight song structure as an escape valve. "Slumber Party," "Love Me Down," and "Better" suggest a welcome Ace of Base revival is just around the corner. And each song feeds off one another small pleasure for small pleasure. A job well done.

Wait a minute. Consistent? Album? A job well done? Isn't this pop music? We should take our pleasures where we can get them. But this is a journeywoman's album and Spears has thus far had no journeywoman in her. The genius of "Oops!...I Did It Again" and "Work Bitch" (from her previous and easily worst album) lied in the shamelessness with which they acknowledged the minimal effort and formula duplication that can go into creating great pop music (and pop stars). There's nothing so scandalous on Glory and for the first time Spears is finally sounding her age (hasn't she always seemed younger than Gaga?) and feeling the weight of her career (I mean, come on - check that album title). We can now expect her to settle into the unmomentous seigneury Madonna discovered around Erotica. But crappy as it is, I'm taking Britney Jean to the desert island so I can access the low energy Hi-NRG of "Work Bitch" and became enraged and exhilarated all over again, neither of which happens with Glory.


Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Ten Women in Black (Kon Ichikawa, 1961)

A television producer has a wife and nine mistresses and makes room for a tenth. Exasperated at his philandering ways, they all conspire to kill him and even the man himself gets in on it in a desperate disappearance scheme. The précis alone for Ten Women in Black (or Ten Dark Women as IMDb has it) is outrageous enough to make a weak film lover like me succumb. But Ichikawa uses it to launch a satirical critique of an overamped society addicted to work and inundated with television. Television screens, television boxes, television technology, a mise-en-scène cramped with television television television, outrageous enough to make a weak television agnostic like me succumb. And note - the film was released the same year Newton Minow made his famous "vast wasteland" speech "Television and the Public Interest."


 It's a world where headphones command just as much visual real estate as people...

...and the most cluttered nook can provide narrative information. 
Even a lone book falling in a messy office speaks with as much significance as any of the characters.
It might get all a bit hippieish (or proto-hippieish?) as in this nevertheless remarkable shot of a nature that remains inaccessible to the goal-oriented principals.
But other compensations include a Hawksian code of honor between the women who care for one another after a fight,
 a ghost who shares the same frame, ineffectually, with the living,
and a literally incendiary ending.

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