Music Musings: Fergie: M.I.L.F $ or SHILL? 

(Suggestion: Stay away)

Fergie isn’t just flying free from the shackles of oppression that the Black Eyed Peas held her back with. She’s also smashing the societal expectations of Motherhood. Her new Trap single M.I.L.F $ is changing a word that’s stigmatised a lot of people, turning the rather lewd acronym into an equally lame one… ‘Moms I’d Like to Follow’. I admire the place this is coming from and I think music is a powerful medium to express such sentiments as controversial imagery has been fuelling popular music for too long. Though I’m convinced that Fergie’s goals here weren’t met in the way people are saying they are. Because what Fergie is saying the song is about and what it really feels about doesn’t line up.

Got MILF is a pretty smart way to reboot a solo career after lingering in a group for the better part of ten years. I don’t think I could ask anyone I know to describe ‘Fergie’s sound’. That’s the sort loss of identity you have when you work in a group for as long as she has. I suppose too there are parallels that suggest it’s the same sort of loss of identity that can happen when you become a mother. Something she recently became herself. Fergie said ‘that Society tries to tell moms what they should and shouldn’t be’. Though, I think what her music video suggests is that as long as you’re conventionally attractive and are willing to wear nothing but lingerie, pour milk over yourself in leathery outfits, have a super skinny waist, flawless skin, no fat left over from pregnancy, no stretch marks and no scars from a possible C-section or… Well the list just kind of goes on. The point is that she’s drawing pretty strict lines here about what a mum that should feel empowered and sexy should look like.

Do you see how her message seems kind of incongruous with the rest of the song? How she wants to laud and celebrate Mum’s and their chance to get theirs and feel good by reserving that right to those who society already deems attractive and deserving? It feels kind of like having your cake and eating it. Decrying the sexualisation of women and then reviling in the imagery for the sake of your music video.
Now I’m not one to suggest Fergie’s cause isn’t legitimate and I’m certainly not the first to criticise her… But, you have to think about the fact she’s an artist who hasn’t performed solo for a long time and needs something to grab a bit of attention. Because let’s be honest here, M.I.L.F $, with its flat generic sound and boring explicit ‘can you believe it‘ lyrics isn’t exactly the reason anyone came.

Controversial music videos have become very popular. I don’t think the fact that YouTube views count towards the billboard’s chart is pressed hard enough into our collective consciousness. We saw the outcome of this in Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines in 2013. It was so edgy it made over 11,000,000 hits and I’d argue a lot of that was to do with its racy music video. Though fortunately that song got a lot of backlash, and I’d like to think MILF is a step forward, for the marketers at least. They learned that they can spin the video that glorifies the imagery it’s criticizing by claiming it’s some sort of progressive move by the artist against it. Then, groups will defend it as doing just that when in reality, well… They got played by a marketing bit. You went away and talked about it and generated traffic for her video, her name, and her Fergalicious brand.
That’s why Fergie filled the video with powerful female role models like Kim Kardashian. A woman made famous for a sex-tape and successfully cultivating an entire career out of her buttocks. Props to Kim regardless I mean if only I could do the same I wouldn’t be spending my time writing about Fergie videos.
I guess the real crying shame here is that Fergie bet on the wrong horse. I’m not here talking about an amazing song with a hell of a beat and catchy chorus. No I’m here ranting to you about some crusade. She sold out her chance to really explore something creative and great for some weird 2edgy4u ploy and I just don’t think it’s worked out for anybody. I want to be here talking about a great song, but Fergie either isn’t capable of writing one or she doesn’t have enough faith that her song alone would be worthwhile.
I think I’d much rather M.I.L.F stood for Music I’d Like to Forget.


Music Videos: The World of Covers


Now I know I haven’t written anything since new years so excuse my abruptness but I just encountered a video quite late in the day, AKA: 11:50pm, that I wanted to talk about.  I spent most of my day working and writing, and as I did so I listened to music. A lot of that music was cover songs of other various popular albums. Why? Well I like that spin on them, plus you don’t have to sit through an obnoxious advert on YouTube to listen to the music video in question. However when I was justifying why I listen to cover songs I began questioning why I was even on YouTube for my music… I mean there are thousands of dedicated platforms for new artists all over the internet, yet I find myself ultimately drawn to YouTube. Then I realised why… It’s the video. 

Experiencing a cover in a vacuum away from a human face makes you lose the worth of the person performing. You see a cover is different from the original because the person signing is not doing it for money but purely for passion, and that passion is muted without video. Without that visual element to the music you’d never see the dusty bedrooms, the sneering concentration on the faces of singers as the fumble for lyrics in their heads, or the worn instruments they pluck. I know it sounds hubristic and ultimately romantic but it’s true. You can even see the extremely fast progression of this new genre. We’ve moved from webcams to dedicated film cameras, with correctly composed shots.

I’ll offer two videos for an example:

The first is a cover made in 2010, (Jesus can you believe that was four years ago?) where in very little happens.

Sure it’s simple, and certainly not the focus of the content, but that doesn’t mean that no appreciation can be had from the video. Without it we’d never see that concentration, that drive. There’s a force that leaves the artist stuck, stoically staring at the ground, hunched over their guitar. We’d never know that this song wasn’t recorded in a studio, we’d never know that someone sang on the floor in the bedroom. That’s what video offers to music, that’s what, in my opinion, has helped the development and popularity of covers. It’s raw and unadulterated people, not highly refined and polished celebrities. In short, it’s just ruddy endearing.

This second video was made in 2012 by the same person: 

It clearly has style, heck it even has skill behind it. I’m not even sure that I could be so graceful and quick with a focus pull. It’s a huge change from the webcam video, it’s got movement, changing focus and even visual effects. Unless they really did shoot on black and white film, something I highly doubt….

Yet it’s still effectual. How you ask? Well two words, continuous shot, it never breaks or cuts, or at least I didn’t notice it doing so when I watched it at midnight high on diet coke and chocolate jelly beans. So why does the continuous shot mean anything? Well It lets us know it was one take, the room might have changed, the style and production values certainly have, but there’s still that gorilla edge to it. It’s not a visual gag, or a cheap ploy to up view counts. It’s film that’s shot in a complementary style to the music, understated, raw and unedited (minus the aforementioned black and white filter). It’s the right treatment for music in videos, not flashy sex stuff or stupid effects.

Anyway that’s my brief analysis into music videos, hope you enjoyed. Oh and Remember that it’s all thanks to the democratization of video distribution this, well genre was birthed. Otherwise we’d never experience anything of the like.