David Bowie, “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” (And How It Was Really The Eurythmics Who Created The World We Live In Today… And Everything Else You Could Fit Into A Superfluous Parenthetical)
There is a lot to talk about about the new David Bowie video. The first thing, I guess, is that it was directed by Floria Sigismondi, who made The Runaways movie two years ago and lots of other music videos set in, as she reportedly put it, “entropic underworlds inhabited by tortured souls and omnipotent beings.” (Hooray!) It co-stars Tilda Swinton, who plays David Bowie’s wife in the most masturbatory coupling we’ve seen since Mick Jagger married himself in the form of Bianca Peres Moreno de Macias in 1971.
The third thing (and this is really probably the first thing, but I didn’t want to start off by harshing so harshly on one of my musical heroes) is the song. It is terrible. Just about as boring and flat as you can imagine anything David Bowie ever writing. It would have been so much better if he had just made the whole thing out of the video’s intro music. That slow funk and sludgy, weirdly-tuned guitars and groovy rattlesnake percussion — I want to hear more of that! Maybe, if we’re lucky, there will be a song like that on his new album, The Next Day, which comes out next month.
Even the title is terrible. (What a charmless use of parenthesis.)
But the video is fun to watch. It conjures an entropic underworld inhabited by tortured souls and omnipotent beings. It’s very 1980s, and first struck me as being much like the super-double-excellent, very-1980s video Santigold made for her song “The Keepers” last year.
Man, do I love that song! The beat is sort of directly from Kate Bush’s “Running Up that Hill.” (Which, it turns out, had a big influence on Prince’s making “If I Was Your Girlfriend.” Which you can read more about in this interview with Sign o’ the Times engineer Susan Rodgers. And which will make sense to you if you’ve ever heard a Prince/Kate Bush mashup.)
As Miss Info pointed out, the Santigold video “has shades of John Waters, David Lynch, and a whole lot of Cindy Sherman.” And glo-worm jello molds, which is what made the connection to entropic underworlds inhabited by tortured souls and omnipotent beings for me.
But then someone else pointed out the similarities between the “Stars (Are Out Tonight)” video and the Eurythmics 1987 “I Love to Listen to Beethoven.” And… yes! Wow.
The soulless domesticity, the disguise, the creepy look at aging and the future and hallucination. It’s all there. (The scene of the little girl in the blonde wig skipping through the living room was basically recreated shot-for-shot in the Santigold video. The way this stuff goes, of course, they could maybe both be referencing an even earlier source that I’m not picking up on? Was there ever a Stepford-Wives production of Goldilocks and the Three Bears?)
But it’s not just Santigold and David Bowie. Watch the last minute of that last video, when Annie Lennox glams up and stumbles around drunkenly and trashes her kitchen and then struts off past what looks like a big industrial prison complex and tell me Lady Gaga hasn’t taken more ideas from this than any Madonna video anyone has ever cited.
Either I have drank too much coffee this morning, or we have rediscovered THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT MUSIC VIDEO OF ALL TIME!!!
It might be the coffee. I am in a vortex. Too much revelation! And it’s so important. Now I can’t decide whether my favorite Eurythmics song is “Love Is a Stranger…”
Or “Who’s That Girl?”
Or is it “Thorn In My Side?”
I don’t know. I never know. I… I need to go listen to “Quicksand.”
Actually, this is about exactly what I needed after all yesterday’s awful rehashing of the awful awfulness of Sunday night’s Oscars and its Twitter-fueled aftermath. I should not pay attention to the things I sometimes pay attention to. That all really sucked. So thanks, pop music.