Thursday, March 1, 2012

Shrapnel in the Heart


 'Dearest Eddie Lynn. I'd give anything to have you shell just one more pecan for me on Grandma's porch.

'Before he left he taught me how to drive his car. Then he left it to me to take care of, ''till he got back''. I've still got the car. I would rather have my big brother back.'

'The red roses you ordered for Mother's Day 1968 for me were just beautiful. It was as if in all finality you were thanking me and telling me of the love we shared together. The red paint on the big tree where you sprayed your hot rod engine is fading away. Dad will always cherish the railroad watch you left in his car. Your tools are just as you left them in the garage.'

 The 1980's was a time in which The Vietnam War reasserted itself in the national memory of America. Physically, men who had fought in the war were beginning to come to terms with what had happened, what they had lost, and what they had failed to acheive since, or were dealing with the effects of injuries sustained in or after the war without help from a government that had left them 'stranded'. Perhaps even more prevanlently, America was also dealing with the emotional effects of a war that took away the youths of thousands, and left a hole in the lives of many normal American families with the loss of a father, a brother, a husband, or a son.

Laura Palmer's 'Shrapnel in the Heart' is a chronicle of memory. Within, Palmer records over a hundred letters, poems and tributes left at the Vietnam War Memorial, and follows the stories that lie behind a few of them. The fact that the book was published in the 1980's shows how the Vietnam had repeated itself on the American people and the stories within show how the subject was unavoidable at the time. For example, Palmer follows the story of Donnie Mahowald - a 'brother-in-arms' in Vietnam but a man left stranded and alone when he returned to America in the 1980's. Long after returning from war and dealing with the emotional effects of losing his foster brother, when he was in his late 30's, in the 1980's, Donnie contracted cancer in his jaw due to exposure to Agent Orange. Half his jaw was removed and he was left with a hole in his jaw, and was unable to work due to his disability. The government refused to help as they believed 'if you take any number of people, a certain number are going to get cancer anyway', leaving Donnie, as his sister writes 'wounded, only not by the enemy'. There were men all over the country like this, injured and forgotten by their country, which was set on forgetting the unforgettable, and as Donnie's sister writes 'Does everyone just hope they'll all go away?'. Perhaps more than physically though, as Donnie's sister writes 'I never saw Donnie cry all through radiation...but he cried when he had to borrow money from me', the 1980's left a lot of men not only with injuries but perhaps a fate worse than cancer to many, emasculation.

On a slightly simpler, yet more emotional level however, for families and friends the 1980's saw memory merge with a horrifying realisation for many as they realised that what they had lost in the war. Sons and daughter's came of an age in which they could understand why they had never had a father - a generation of children whose father's were stolen. Letters with lines such as 'So many times I have wanted for you to put your arm around me, wipe a tear from my eye, or just laugh and tease me' - a generation deprived. Perhaps even more tragically mother's came to the hopeless realisation that they had lost something that could never be replaced - a son. 'Hearts broken forever' and memories. Memories left in minds, and in cherished watches on father's wrists, and in beloved teddy bears, left at 'the wall'.

Chuck Norris is MISSING IN ACTION.


This week I found a movie review of classic 80s film Missing In Action starring the one and only Chuck Norris. The article I will be looking at is found here.

The review is from The New York Times published in 1984. The same year as the film was released. The film deals with Chuck Norris being sent back to Vietnam to rescue prisoners of war. Chuck Norris' character himself was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for a number of years before being freed or escaping, and then returning to free his fellow comrades. This suggests that films like this (i.e. Rambo etc) are concentrated on the infiltration of Vietnam and the decimating of their forces. The fact that he is rescuing American POWs is in a way, righting the wrongs America did in Vietnam and rewriting the loss that happened there. As the tagline of the movie says "The war's not over until the last man is home." This suggests that attitudes of Americans during the 80s is that the war in Vietnam was over unjustly and too soon. That America never had its chance to shine and dominate the enemy. These 80s Vietnam movies' portray a strong powerful America in Vietnam when in reality it was quite the opposite.
The reviewer also writes "In addition to liking Mr. Norris, the Rivoli audience also showed enthusiasm for the film's attitude toward Vietnamese soldiers and officials, who are depicted as no less unequivocally shifty, villainous and deceitful as their stereotyped Japanese counterparts were in B-movies about World War II." This suggests that the Vietnamese are just classic movie villains and there is no representation of them as real people.

Missing In Action is one of those movies that is there to boost the American morale, and show American strength, for example, one man against an army, single handedly saving various prisoners of war. This in reality would end disastrous but alas, it is Chuck Norris and he did encircle infinity.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Platoon


The 1986 film Platoon about the Vietnam war, starring Charlie Sheen was written and directed by Oliver Stone to counter the 1965 film The Green Beret directed by John Wayne which was written during the war and was used to counter the strong anti-Vietnam opinion among the public at the time and managed to obtain full co-operation from the military and the President Lyndon B. Johnson. Now that the war was over Stone wanted to portray what life was really like for soldiers who fought in the war, as Stone served in the military and fought in the Vietnam War and Wayne did not.


 A professional film critic Roger Ebert describes this film as portraying the worst part of war with no 'standard hero' and describes the narrator of the film; Charlie Sheen's character as being 'quickly at the point of physical collapse, bedevilled by long marches, no sleep, ants, snakes, cuts, bruises and constant gnawing fear.' Ebert says that the film does not make war look fun, and that is what Stone wanted, it seems he did not want to glorify war by making it with 'energy and a sense of adventure.' The film shows what war was really like.

Even this film poster that was used shows the dispare of the soldier and was used to recreate a famous photograph in 1968, during the war which has been named one of the greatest military photographs.

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19861230/REVIEWS/612300301/1023

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall


The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a national memorial in Washington, D.C. It has taken almost sixty years for the World War II veterans to acquire a monument in Washington. The memorial opened within the last decade after the war ended. The memorial is made of black granite and comprises of 140 panels and is engraved with the names of each American that died or is accounted for from the Vietnam War. The wall is larger toward the centre and is approximately ten feet high. The names are arranged chronologically in order of death, commencing with the first in 1959 and ending with the last in 1975. Some have objected to the names being arranged chronologically by order of death. Instead it has been suggested that they be entered at random, because there should be no precedence, not even the benign precedence of chronology. Nonetheless, most people appear unfazed with how the names are arranged; the only difficulty is locating a particular name on the wall. However, there are phone-book like listings at the entrance to the Wall and “roaming guides” that assist people in seeking out a particularl name.
The memorial was minimalist and unconventional, varying drastically from traditional monuments, which usually include flags and statues of fallen soldiers. Various veterans related the black granite with death and destruction and they believed that situating the Memorial beneath the surface of the earth was an insult to the memories of those who died. The memorial was not intended to be a political statement; instead it was meant to keep a quiet, private place for people to challenge their grief and sorrow.

Goodnight Saigon



Following on from last week’s discussion on 1980s music, I have posted another Billy Joel video. This is his 1983 song “Goodnight Saigon” which is a moving tribute to friends of Joel who fought in the Vietnam War. Whilst I don’t see this as a protest song, following on from watching “We didn’t start the fire” last week, Joel seems to be able to use his song writing skills to draw attention to issues he feels strongly about. I also see a thinly veiled criticism, both in terms of American involvement in the war initially and the treatment of veterans on their return. The lyrics of one line of the song “They left their childhood on every acre” refers to the young age of the soldiers that fought and died, as another 1980’s song by Paul Hardcastle shows, the average age of those going to Vietnam was “Nineteen”.

The video uses a live performance of the song interspersed with images of soldiers, helicopters and guns together with backing vocals provided by a group of Vietnam veterans which also suggests to me that Joel was highlighting the plight of those coming back from fighting and feeling alienated from society. The song was released at a time when American society was beginning to become much more aware of the plight of the veterans, many of whom had been badly neglected on their return from war.

I found lots of comment on this song – some critical as Joel never served in the military and others, some veterans, who appreciate the sentiments he is trying to portray. Personally, I found the song to be a genuine expression of Joel’s thoughts on the conflict but as with any song, it is open to individual interpretation.

Full Metal Jacket



For this week's task I have decided to look at Stanley Kubrick's 1987 classic Full Metal Jacket.
Controversial for its depiction of hazing and the style of bootcamps used to train soldiers going in to Vietnam, it is an excellent look at the brutal conditions of Vietnam.

Personally, I really enjoy reading about Vietnam and the conflict in general. The film follows the experiences of the troops as they are caught in the middle of the Tet Offensive, a huge coordinated attack by the NVA that took place during the Vietnamese new year. The attack was massive, causing numerous casualties and deaths - something which was very important to the
Vietnam war cause. Because of the terrain and conditions and also because of the type of war it was, it was known amongst officials that, unlike previous wars, this would not be a war won by gaining land and invasions, instead it was to be decided on body count.



The film is notable for its brutal depiction of death and combat, controversial to come when considering that the war had only ended 13 years previously, and while most critics gave it rave reviews many felt that the often disjointed narrative in the film's climax undermined the rest of the film. What was universally praised however, was the realistic depiction of combat, and the soundtrack and audio effects, all of which helped to create an atmospheric and above all faithful representation of what war is really like.

Born On The Fourth Of July

Born on the Fourth of July is a 1989 American film adaptation of the best selling autobiography of the same name by Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic. Tom Cruise plays Kovic, in a performance that earned him his first Academy Award nomination. Oliver Stone (also a Vietnam veteran) co-wrote the screenplay with Kovic, and also produced and directed the film. Stone wanted to film the movie in Vietnam, but because relations between the United States and Vietnam had not yet been normalised, it was instead filmed in the Philippines.

The film shows that once he is overseas his "gung-ho enthusiasm" and patriotism turns to horror and confusion when he accidentally kills one of his own men in a firefight. His downfall is furthered by a bullet wound that leaves him paralyzed from the chest down. He returns home, spends an appalling, nightmarish stint in a veterans' hospital, and follows an increasingly disillusioned and fragmented path that ultimately leaves him drunk and dissolute in Mexico. However, Kovic somehow turns himself around and pulls his life together, becoming an outspoken anti-war activist in the process. The film is long but emotionally powerful; many consider it Stone's best work. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/born_on_the_fourth_of_july/

The reviews of the film received many positive reactions and even today on Rotten Tomatoes the film holds a score 89% of positive reviews by critics. Many critics also praised Tom Cruise's performance and Oliver Stone's direction of the film. Stone would later be awarded with an Oscar and a Golden Globe for directing while Tom Cruise received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor.

The Vietnam War was the first war the was hugely televised globally and its portrayal in the media was the first of it's kind in raising angst against a military mission abroad in the USA. These feeling continue today with the Vietnam war and more recently the troops in Afghanistan.


Vietnam Veterans Memorial




The link above is to the website for The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a national memorial in Washington, DC. The memorial is dedicated to and honours the members of the US armed forces that fought in the Vietnam war, those who died and those who were lost during the war. The memorial consists of three separate parts, the Three Soldiers Statue, the Vietnam Women's Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, which is the most well known part of the memorial. The wall was completed in late October and dedicated on November 13, 1982, ending a week long salute to the Veterans. The wall itself is in the Constitution Gardens, Northeast of the Lincoln Memorial, and is maintained by the US National Park Service. The wall was payed for by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, a non-profit charitable organisation, set up by a group of veterans. There is a total of 58, 272 names listed on the wall, including six which were added in 2010 and it is known that 1200 of these names were listed as missing in action.    

The website gives information about the memorial and answers many frequently asked questions, as well as having photographs, link to the names of the people, links to birthdays on the wall and a link to send out a message to people who lost someone in the war. It states that the names on the wall are listed in chronological order of when the people were listed as killed in action or missing in action, moving along day to day. As I have previously said, some names have been recently added to the wall and symbolically, this is described as a "wound that is closed and healing". It is also said that through the design of the wall, when a visitor looks at the wall, their reflection can be seen along with the engraved names, which is meant to symbolise bringing the past and present together.

Although the memorial wall was meant to be a tribute to the Vietnam Veterans, there was still controversy at the time it was in production. Some of the veterans didn't like the design of the wall, calling just a slab of stone. However, once made, the wall was appreciated for it's simple beauty and emotional power. The wall became so popular, but not everyone could travel to Washington, DC to visit the wall. So a moving wall was made two years later in 1984, it could visit hundreds of small towns and cities in the US so that Veterans across America could see it. To finish, I think this memorial is a simple, yet powerful way to honour those lost in the Vietnam war. It shows how in the 1980s, once the aftermath of the war had calmed down, the world could finally come together to honour those who fought in the war.      

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

1980s Feelings towards the Vietnam War: Rambo

The Vietnam War has been a hugely controversial topic throughout US History, many views are held over the war and its justification and necessity. War protest throughout the 1960s and its portrayal in the media was the first of it's kind in raising angst against a military mission abroad in the USA. The 1980s brought about refreshed reactions which still held huge relevance surrounding the war and issues surrounding soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress.

The series of Films, Rambo depict a huge legacy of the War, but also uncover very relevant issues surrounding suffering soldiers. 'First Blood' was released in 1982, the first of the Rambo series featuring Silvester Stallone was an awakening to America. The film exposed relevant issues surrounding treatment of Vietnam veterans in modern society. It had become acceptable to hate the war, so people did, but this left veterans in a very difficult situation, and viewed as war criminals and not heroes despite their personal suffering and sacrifice. John J. Rambo was a Special Forces Officer who is still reminded of his war days through harrowing memories and fears. On a trip to Hope, Washington, Rambo is met with intolerance and insolence, he is not welcomed as a hero but as someone to be shunned from this small town society.

This nonacceptance towards the Vietnam War echoed popular judgement in America at the time, Rambo attempts to create a realisation through the entertainment industry, along with making the American rebel cool. Rambo is a memorial symbol of the Vietnam War through entertainment media, depicting perhaps exaggerated, but relevant issues surrounding Vietnam veterans living in the United States.

Fallen Angels - Walter Dean Myers



The book Fallen Angels is by Walter Dean Myers and was published in 1988. It tells the story of a seventeen year old called Richie Perry and his experiences when he fights in the Vietnam War in 1967. The book focuses on displaying the horrific nature of the war, with Perry witnessing many of his fellow soldiers die as well as members of his own company torture and kill innocent people. Therefore Fallen Angels firmly portrays a negative reaction to the war, with the waste of life and the true realities of combat becoming key themes throughout the book. As a result, it displays that the Vietnam War was not worth the sacrifice and by describing how terrible it was for the soldiers involved and what they had to go through, it condemns the abuse and treatment returning veterans received when they first returned from Vietnam

Fallen Angels is similar to the film Platoon which was released in 1986 which also focuses on the negative side of war. Both texts portray sergeants and generals as either being ruthless and not caring about their soldiers, or as not being not fit to command, thereby questioning the leadership of the American forces in Vietnam.

In conclusion, the aim of this book was to show the reality of the Vietnam War and as a result portrays a negative image of the war. As this book was aimed at young adult readers, it could have also had the aim to prevent the next generation of young Americans from joining the army if another war arises in the future.

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=vnUypwAACAAJ&dq=fallen+angels+walter+dean+myers&hl=en&sa=X&ei=uTFNT5afA8Sl0QWZq5jhBQ&redir_esc=y

Thursday, February 23, 2012


The Vietnamese Amnesia



1974 onward was a time of great disillusionment and a hazed denial of America’s involvement in the Vietnam war, the 80’s developed a revival of interest and reflection within the failings of the U.S. Army and its overestimation of the countries of Vietnam, Laos and unofficially Cambodia. The lack of faith towards the Army and other governing bodies was misplaced with the Republican Reagon and the rise of the efficient and affluent workplace. This amnesia of the events that had been shipped back to the United States through the testimony of such veterans as Ron Kovic and the Nightly News had been all but forgotten, even though the Vietnam War was the most graphically portrayed in the nation’s history.



This reinvigorated interest brought about by a malaise of psychological denial of many citizens whose history of glory has left them in such an unpatriotic place allowed a retelling of the American story of the Vietnam War.



Authors, articles and Government inquiry built a strong basis for the Hollywood machine to adapt the story into a conventionally ‘Good’ vs ‘Evil’ tale. The Deer Hunter (1978) showed the damaging Psychosis of the Vietnam veterans, hardened and often inhuman because of the very nature of the War, Vietnamese Brutality and the effects of returning to a home that no longer holds the childhood innocence that made it so. Again the Physical effects were captured with the Veteran returning Handicapped from infection, similarly displayed in Born on the Fourth of July (1989) where the biographical basis shows it’s realism, the lead character returns still patriotic but also separate from those who have not experienced the War. The 1980’s drafted the concepts very differently with Heroic feats of bravery and honesty at their forefront.



Platoon (1986) was that very example, covering a wide diversity of meaning, such as the Race issues, drug use, and the disillusioned soldiers for whom the war is another day on the calendar, the depiction of the end battle with the protagonist surviving solely, through his own defiance, Apocalypse Now has the protagonist survive yet the war is not painted in such a way as to drescribe salvation.



The Vietnam Veterans Memorial however is scarcely that of the film industry, it is ‘A Shrine to the Dead’




The message


the message was a versed rap on the life of inner city new York, yet it can be transferred to any inner city during the time, it was a new form of expression in 1982, only popular for 3 years at this point, the truth of his subject matter was not originally understood by mainstream audiences, until later on in the decade further artists would add to ‘the message’


Public Enemy are better known for such sings as Fight the power and Bring the noise yet other songs included other messages for the people, in don’t believe the hype  the lyrics


But since I gave you all a little something that I knew you lacked
They still consider me a new jack…

The follower of Farrakhan
Don't tell me that you understand until you hear the man

These lyrics play on numerous things, they hold true to their music and believe in it, yet through the truth of their subject matter, many have become mislead to believe that they are ‘New Jacks’, a form of new wave rap/r&b but also known as a new type of underground criminal, the speaking on the matter, according to Chuck D, is not admitting to be one, rather the reference to Minister Farrakhan draws away from gang violence, attempting to show a black community a better way to live their lives as proud black men.


Chuck also argues the mood of this inner city type, saying that the population and especially the media deem him and others as the ‘enemy’, an enemy to white society and its social order.

Black on black

‘crime and the fear of crime, drug and alcohol abuse, arson, vandalism, a dilapidated bombed-out physical environment and a way of life utterly separate from the American mainstream have become associated with poor city blacks more than any other group.’



The inner city problems of American cities have always been more than typically environmental. The great many non-white inhabitants of the slums and ghettos have been subject to the violence, drug distribution, poverty and lack of government intervention over the course of century. However the face of suburban America was changing, it was the underbelly that fuelled the feeling of many Black and Latino neighbourhoods, later becoming what many considered a separate state, void of constitutional law and justice, and instead adopting a new form, street justice.



It was a scenario that allowed for the philosophy of ‘get money any way you can’, again not for all who were part of this environment but for many of the youth and hardened elders for whom the ‘system’ had failed or would inevitably fail.



We Didn't the Fire


1989 saw the end of the 80's, and it also saw the release of Billy Joel's 'We Didn't Start the Fire'. Billy Joel is a notorious history buff and his number 1 hit lists a plethora of historical people and events in his verses, from Truman to Watergate. Aside from being a massive hit, We Didn't Start the Fire marks a moment in American History. Coming at the end of the 80's, the single almost put a full stop on the decade, whilst providing it with an important summary. This is in relation mostly to the chorus, and the line 'We Didn't Start the Fire' can be understood in a number of ways. For example, it could be an almost apologetic statemtent on behalf of America for events that have been caused in the past. Or, it could be an example of American exceptionalism, and a portrayal of Reagan's America. Or, as Billy Joel mentioned in one interview, it could be a nostalgic look at world history and a presentation of a lack of meaningful history created by the 80's generation. Whether this is true or not however, is left to debate.


As for a song that will be around in 30 years, i have chosen Katy Perry's Firework. This is for no other reason than that it adheres to all pop conformities, and realistically nothing keeps a song around more than it sounding good, and even if Katy Perry's look dates in 30 years with time (surely not, right?) nothing stops the power of a good pop song.

Alternative Rock

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUVUgZJiZHk&feature=related
The Replacements - Here Comes a Regular
Well a person can work up a mean mean thirst
after a hard day of nothin' much at all
Summer's passed, it's too late to cut the grass
There ain't much to rake anyway in the fall

And sometimes I just ain't in the mood
to take my place in back with the loudmouths
You're like a picture on the fridge that's never stocked with food
I used to live at home, now I stay at the house

And everybody wants to be special here
They call your name out loud and clear
Here comes a regular
Call out your name
Here comes a regular
Am I the only one here today?

Well a drinkin' buddy that's bound to another town
Once the police made you go away
And even if you're in the arms of someone's baby now
I'll take a great big whiskey to ya anyway

Everybody wants to be someone's here
Someone's gonna show up, never fear
'cause here comes a regular
Call out your name
Here comes a regular
Am I the only one who feels ashamed?

Kneeling alongside old Sad Eyes
He says opportunity knocks once then the door slams shut
All I know is I'm sick of everything that my money can buy
The fool who wastes his life, God rest his guts

First the lights, then the collar goes up, and the wind begins to blow
Turn your back on a pay-you-back, last call
First the glass, then the leaves that pass, then comes the snow
Ain't much to rake anyway in the fall

In the post-punk era alternative rock bands were on independent record labels and were being played on college radio as documented in the song 'left of the dial' by The Replacements in a nod to turning the radio dial to the alternative stations.  Alternative rock was popular with disaffected youth culture and those excluded from conventional society and the Reagan regime, with no prospects for the future, working in dead end jobs and turning to drugs and alcohol as escape.  Alt. rock reflected the alienation of the minorities within the dominant popular culture.  This song captures the real mundane life of humdrum America and the failure of the American dream as they are waiting for someone to call their name and be 'special' but they're just a 'regular' person and also being a regular customer at a bar.  There is also disillusion with the capitalist and consumeristic lifestyle in the lines 'All I know is I'm sick of everything that my money can buy'.  The condradictions of the American dream can be seen in the arrival of 'grunge' in the early 90s (a successor of alternative rock) in the rise of Nirvana, as at the same time as their album 'Nevermind' went to number one the lead singer Kurt Cobain was sleeping in his car with no home. 

This is part of a BBC documentary about Alternative rock:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HM7JLs4DNT8









Wednesday, February 22, 2012

1980's music.


This is one of Cyndi Lauper's most famous and successful songs; 'Girls just want to have fun', a song that has been described as one of the feminist anthems of the 1980's. It was significant for many reason, firstly for the message it portrays through the song as well as the music video; that 'girls just want to have fun' and not become a housewife, like her 'mother' at the beginning of the video, or the good, sensible girl that her father wants her to be. The video makes a point that it is girls of all races that can have fun, Cyndi Lauper's group of friends in the video include girls of all races. It also shows the men following the girls, dancing in the street, leaving their jobs, rather than the girls following the men to work, and men from different backgrounds, builders to business men, and of different races.
Cyndi Lauper and this song are also significant because of the influence it had on popular culture at the time and feminism & feminine attitude. It also set fashion trends and paved the way for other artists such as Madonna who went on to later sport similar fashion choices to Cyndi Lauper in her music videos such as 'Like a Virgin' which went to number 1 in 1984, a year after this song went to number 1 all over the world. Madonna became an icon for her music, but also became an icon for her fashion in the 80's.
What is also interesting is that Cyndi Lauper the lyrics for this song from the original song written by the musician Robert Hazard as she felt the original dealt with the girl pleasing the man.
This song represents the 1980's because it touches on the emergence of third wave feminism that defined women as powerful and in control of their own sexuality, but also the fact that women are of many different colours, ethnicities, religions, nationalities and cultures.


I have chosen Pink's 2011 song 'Fuckin' Perfect' as she deals with issues of beauty and the idea of beauty in American society today. The video was used to raise awareness of teen issues such as bullying, depression, eating disorders, self harm and suicide. The video follows a young girl who is left out by her peers and begins to steal and becomes anorexic in an attempt to fit in with the girls who are seen as beautiful. It also sees the young girl beginning to accept herself by going against society's idea of beauty and cutting off all of her hair and eventually you see her as as an adult and happy. The song, along with a few others that year went on to influence MTV to introduce a new category at their Video Music Awards titled; Video with a message. Although it lost out to Lady Gaga's 'Born this way' it has still paved the way for more songs that deal with issues other than love. I think this song represents today because it deals with the issues of today, just like Cyndi Lauper's 'Girls just want to have fun' dealt with the issue of the 1980's of feminism and gender roles, this song and video deals with the issues that are present today, which are the image of beauty portrayed by the media, and the issues that teens have to deal with such as depression and self harm.

Music of the 80s and Now



The Link above is to Michael Jackson's Thriller music video which was released in 1983. I chose this song because the 1980's saw the reinvention of Michael Jackson and he can be said to have been one of the most powerful musicians of that time. This particular song/video was voted the most influential pop music video of all time and proved to be a huge effect on pop culture. At the time MTV was very popular in American culture and was a way of musicians being seen and Michael Jackson's videos became a permanent fixture on MTV and was watched worldwide. The Thriller song was most renowned for it's ground breaking music video and it was named "a watershed moment for the music industry" because of it's merging of film and music which was not widely known at the time. With the video being an incredible fourteen minutes long and it incorporates a plot into the song and therefore almost acts as a short film rather than a music video.  

The video was also said to have broken racial barriers within music at the time, with Patrick Kevin Day and Todd Marten, of The Los Angeles Times suggesting that "MTV had a reputation for favoring white performers at the time, and its heavy rotation of Jackson videos helped alleviate the criticism". They then go on to state that "Thriller's phenomenal success led to a breaking down of traditional racial barriers on FM radio at the time". Therefore, I think this song and video represents the period of the 1980's, not just in music culture but in a racial aspect as well.




The link above is to Beyonce's music video of her song "I Was Here" which was released in 2011. I chose to look at this song because I think Beyonce is one of the most influential music artists of the last decade and is set to do the same this decade. I chose this song in particular because, even though it may not be one of her most well known or most popular songs I think it is especially relevant to representing the contemporary. The song itself is a reflective ballad, in which Beyonce reviews her past, how she became the world renowned star of today and it also reflects on how she wants to leave an impact on the world before her life comes to an end. Which is why I think this song and it's artist is a good representation of contemporary America and the world, in that it talks about her wanting to leave a legacy and to show the world what she has achieved through out her career so far. Along with this, the song was also said to be motivated by the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in America. This song was the only song on Beyonce's album that she did not co-write but when she heard it she had to sing it. With September 2011 going to mark the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks the song fitted perfectly and Beyonce thought it would be the perfect song to finish her album.      


Therefore I think this song is a fitting attribute to contemporary America and globally, not just for the music industry but for what is going on in the world. With not only the lyrics describing how Beyonce will leave her mark on the world and the song being a "career song", which was seen by some critics as strange because she is still very young. But also the video itself shows Beyonce's life over the past few years, how it has changed and what has made her career so far. It is for these reasons that I think this song can be seen as a representation that could still be seen thirty years from now.   

Representation of 80s music


Songs of youthful sexual frustration have hit the airwaves from the start of rock and roll. Seldom does a band merge teenage desires with the apparently conflicting theme of religious awakening in such a clash of musical genres as the Violent Femmes.  The Femmes have been addressing this tough blend of sounds and images with their distinctive brand of neo-punk, hard-core acoustic music since their development in Wisconsin in the early 80s. They were the definitive American cult band of the 80s, and caught the crux of teen angst with significant precision; raw and jumpy, the threesome found little commercial success but nevertheless their music reflected the troubled teens all over the world. Although some of their hit songs never hit the chart, their albums stayed a rite of passage for subsequent generations of adolescent outsiders and after nearly a decade in releases, their music finally succeeded platinum status.
Their song Blister in the Sun struck a chord with me and although I am not entirely sure what this song means it is supposed to be about masturbation. The song seems to be centred more on the main singer’s sexuality than anything else. The line “big hand I know you’re the one,” seems to suggest something to do with men, especially when this is used in conjunction with “body and beats, I stain my sheets, I don’t even know why, my girlfriend – she’s at the end, she is starting to cry.” I think he is singing about how he is content with single sexual contact than with his girlfriend; and her reaction to that. Browsing through their other songs, they appear to have comparable lyrics which do indeed reinforce this. 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aljlKYesT4
 
I found it difficult to pick a song that will best represent the contemporary thirty years from now. I picked the song Promises by Nero, because besides from absolutely adoring this song I feel as though their music and other similar artists are the music of our generation. The singer’s high-wired vocals over a thick, head-banging melody and pulsing bass-lines is particularly sharp and completely appropriate as we are in the year of dubstep-goes-pop. I’m not all that keen on dubstep in general because I feel as though there is a lack of instruments and soul to the music. It is predominately a computer and machine noises contributing to what is considered a “smash hit.” But some artists do hit the nail on the head and succeed in creating a futuristic sound. Similar genres and artists such as Skillet, Kaskade and Medina are a testament to the high-paced energy music that is pumped into popular clubs. Students/adolescents invest in the dubstep events and the package of frivolous props that accompany it, because it gives them a tangible and considered return. There is a definite thrill and excitement of the occasion, the mindless obsessions created by engrossing in what is basically carnivalesque behaviour in which social standards are challenged and reversed. 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llDikI2hTtk&ob=av2e

Music From Then, To Now.

The 1980s gave birth to one of my favourite bands that are still around today. The 80s saw the birth and the steady rise to stardom for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who reinvented the funk rock genre from the early 80s. With four album releases spanning the 80s from their first album which was released in 1984, to their fourth which was released in 1989. I chose to take a single from their fourth album Mother's Milk. The single was a hugely popular cover of a Stevie Wonder classic Higher Ground which was originally released in 1973.

Video can be found here.

I feel this song represents the 80s as it takes something popular from the previous decade and converts it for the then contemporary time. The fact that the song was reinvented with a more harsher funk rock sound and introduced to a new audience. It become hugely popular again, with the Red Hot Chili Peppers winning an MTV video award for the single. It has been voted one of the best cover songs of all time, and has been used in a huge array of films, from the 90s to the present day. To me it sums up the 80s, its hard and fast like the lifestyle of most musicians during the era. It sums up the the alternative music scene, that was always opposing the mainstream rock such as Bon Jovi and other such glam rock acts.

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The song that I feel that will be remembered in 30 years or so, was quite a tough one to choose. I went through a few songs, sometimes realising that the artist isn't American, but I eventually settled on The Black Keys latest lead single from their new album El Camino. The Black Keys are a blues rock band, that formed in 2001. They have released 7 albums with moderate success. Their 2010 album Brothers was the album that really settled them into the public's mind with singles like "Tighten Up" and "Howlin' For You."

Video can be found here.

I feel this song will be remembered in 30 years, as it is incredibly catchy, and popular. The Black Key's latest album seems to have shot them to the conscious of the public with them preforming at various festivals this year, as well as getting considerable radio play. Their songs have also been featured in many films widening the audience even further. The type of music that the Black Keys create, has huge influence in the 60s blues, and throughout their 7 albums they have updated the sound and brought it into the 21st century. With this much talent, this duo should remembered for bringing back blues rock to the public eye.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

1980s music



Cameo are a Funk/R&B group from New York which formed in 1974 but enjoyed their greatest period of success throughout the 1980s.

During the 1980s there was a change in music genres as music reviewer Alex Henderson describes, “Having a killer horn section was something that a lot of 1970s funk outfits prided themselves on, and it was no fun when, in the 1980s, they were told that their horns sound dated and that urban contemporary audiences only wanted to hear synthesizers, sequencers, and drum machines.” Due to Cameo changing their sound in order to cater for this new type of music, they became pioneers of the genre, while still retaining aspects of popular music in previous decades. They released tracks which featured highly in the general charts as well as becoming dance hits such as word up, candy, she’s strange and back and forth. By becoming staples of the dance scene, Cameo represented the section of 1980s youth which wanted to go out and party every night.

Cameo were a very eccentric group, with their videos regularly featuring comedy elements, such as mad dancing, bizarre fashion and celebrity cameos. They also lightly mocked other popular music genres at the time such as rap. As a result the group seemed to have developed a “don’t care” attitude which was reflected in their songs,repeating points about doing what you want and not caring what anyone else thought. Cameo therefore relates to the youth culture of 1980s, where doing what you want and partying regularly was the goal, linking to the attitude of the characters in Less Than Zero.




The second video I’ve chosen to represent the contemporary is a moment like this by Kelly Clarkson which was her first single after winning the first season of American idol in 2002. I’ve chosen this video as it represents the growing trend of talent shows which are now hugely popular and now take place annually all over the world, looking for ranges of talent, music, dance etc. In regards to American music, there have been many programmes all featuring a similar format, with American Idol featuring a series every year since 2002 and new shows such as the Voice and American X Factor debuting in 2011. These types of shows have therefore dominated both the television schedule and news headlines of recent years and as a result define this period of America. It also represents the commercialism of present day American society, in which everything is done to make a profit, be it in several music contests every year in order to find that one big money making star, or in the financial markets which could lead to negative consequences such as the recent recession.