Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Sun Always Shines on TV in Bright Light Bright Light's Disco Moment vid

Watch the Disco Moment video

When Bright Light Bright Light aka Rod watches television, he’s accessing another world from a distance. He can see the people, but they can’t see him. He can change what he sees by using a remote control to flip the channel. He sits alone in my room with the lights off and the tv’s provide the only light. He sees the people laugh and cry as if they’re acting out his dead relationship for the world to see. He feels like Colin Firth in A Single Man. In that sense he comes alive on the screen like a long-dead movie star from Hollywood’s past. Those people seem so alive in that tv world with their Star Brite hairdos and rainbow clothes. Television is Rod’s escape because the sun always shines on tv.

With art direction by Alun Davies, Bright Light Bright Light’s “Disco Moment” video is a sparse art installation that uses television as its main metaphor. A television set is a cipher that only comes alive when plugged in and programmed with tv shows. When unplugged, it’s disconnected and empty, and there’s nothing more lonely and lost than white noise and static snow.

Davie’s trademark bright colors are all over the video to brighten the mood. The people Rod aka Bright Light Bright Light watches on television are dressed in oranges, reds, greens and blues, including their lips and hair. They’re Starburst fruit chews come to life. As with all of Davies’ work, there’s strong contrast: there’s the colorful side of the video, but there’s also the white, blank side, like the white-painted studio apartment that serves as an art gallery. Davies uses stillness to great effect when Rod joins the people he watches dressed in white outfits and television sets replace their heads and they pose like statues. Only when Rod starts singing does his head rotate around to face the microphone.

There’s a lot of rotating going on and it all relates to the main theme of connection: Rod feels less than human because he doesn’t feel connected since he’s going through a breakup. The television screens atop human bodies also speak to disconnection: television is another world, so their heads are in another world. The stillness speaks to the death of Rod’s relationship. Rod wants desperately to feel connected to something and there’s no better place to escape to than television.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Gaga Gets Seasick at CFDA Awards

Gaga at the CFDA Fashion Awards

Did you notice that Gaga looked a bit seasick yesterday at the CFDA Awards (Council of Fashion Designers of America)? Well, she was. She showed up as a creature of the sea. Gaga's choreographer/creative director Laurieann Gibson hinted last month that Gaga's upcoming "Edge of Glory" music video will be "fishy".

She looks like a mermaid wearing Anna Wintour's hairstyle. She glided through in a tight black tube dress with a long flowing train of black organza (mermaid tail!) The bodice of the dress had a scaly texture with spikes decorating the cleavage area; reminscient of her famous fire bra. The trim looks a lot like sea weed. Black sea weed. Since her dress was sleevless, she covered the remaining skin with a see-through shirt similar to what she wore in a 2009 issue of Maxim magazine. Of course Gaga wore her boots with no heels that she premiered in Japan last year. At one point, she wore a black veil that she's donned many times in the past.  As the night went on, her clothes kept coming off.

Remember though that a Gaga fashion moment is not just about what she's wearing, but how she moves in the clothes and how she brings them to life. She's not a mannequin, you know. She bared her teeth housed by her bright red lips, and clawed the air with her red-painted talons forming the monster paw. Paws up! She struck the same classic pose she struck on the cover of Vogue a few months back.

It's interesting that Gaga is going in this mermaid direction because she reminded me of Ursula the Sea Witch when she wore the meat dress last year.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Li Na: Half Killer, All Role Model

Li Na cracks a smile during practice.

You see that smile in the above pic? Well, that's one side of the 7th-ranked tennis player Li Na, but her other side is a killer. I'm envious because Li Na has mastered that art of being charming and funny off the tennis court, but on the court she is like a U.S. Marshal running down a fugitive measuring precisley before she pulls the trigger.

I'm envious of her perfect balance between being tough when she has to be and a fun-loving person the rest of the time. For me, I struggle with being too nice to the point of getting taken advantage of. That's why I see Li Na as a role model.

She's a Killer 

On-court, at her most dangerous her shots sound like heavy metal music. in that way, she reminds me of Lindsay Davenport. The most surprising characteristic about Li Na's game is that it's patient, making her a patient woman. Big Babe Tennis! I hear ya Mary Carillo!

But she's not just a brainless machine like Rocky IV's Ivan Drago, but she's got a strategy. She makes many unforced errors, and just as many winners like any big babe should, but she's learned to be smart.
She'll put just enough spin on the ball to keep her opponents off balance, and then she'll follow that with a ridiculously low and flat shot that jumps off the racquet like a bullet. Shooting the fugitive.

Big Babe Tennis

She's been described by her peers as "sneaky aggressive." While someone like Sharapova will broadcast her power shots with her loud screams and big windups, Li Na hits with a compact swing taking the ball early. Her winners often seem like they came out of nowhere. Davenport!

At 29 she's reached the last 2 Grand Slam finals: in a 3-set thriller at the Australian Open and the French Open. She's blossomed late in her career, and I love it. I'm 24 and I'm a late bloomer too. I've experienced things later and I often feel like I'm trying to catch up. Still, when success comes later, that means you're wiser and know what do with an opportunity when it's in your grasp.

So, who wouldn't want to be a tough, fun-loving, patient, smart, risk-taking and aggressive person? Well, that's what we all can learn from Li Na.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bright Light Bright Light's Love Part II Revisited

Bright Light Bright Light is ready to hear your confession.

10 months after the video for Bright Light Bright Light's "Love Part II" premiered, the song and video affects me even more. I've decided to revisit the video and re-experience its rapture.

"Love Part II" really is this dark, existental video that reminds me that life is short. It hits me in the heart for two reasons: Rod Thomas's performance and Alun Davies' art directon.

At the start he's dressed in all black looking like a priest ready to hear your confession. By the time the second chorus hits, he's unzipped his black jacket to reveal a t-shirt with the collar a bit crooked. The crooked shirt makes Rod look younger, someone who could never be confused for a priest. Instead he might be the one asking for confession.

Dressed in all black
Every time he sings the word "love," he gets showered with confetti. The confetti shower reminds me of a wedding, when the newlyweds are showered with rice. The existentialism is made quite clear when Rod looks upwards, as if to God or some higher power.

There's one scene where a gloved hand covers Rod's eyes. They look like the same gloves worn by the duo behind Rod who wear cheese wedge hats. The duo represents fear, and fear "blinds" Rod preventing him from being in love. At the same time, the duo is the pair of hands on a clock causing so much anxiety.

Existential. Rod looks up, as if to God or some higher power.

In the ending scenes, Rod is wearing a button-down dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up and his collar unbuttoned. The lighting is red = love. Valentine's Day. Cupid!

The smashed glass all over the floor and Rod laying on it is definitely apocalyptic. At the end of the video, Rod rests his head on the broken glass and closes his eyes. The message is simple: He wants to experience love before he dies. And the clock was ticking.

I hope I experience love, openly and in every way.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bright Light Bright Light's Slinky Sexy Sweater

Bright Light Bright Light wears a sweater by Lu Flux

Handsome is something Bright Light Bright Light aka Rod Thomas has been before. But never has he been slinky and oozing sex until now. And it's all because of one sweater.

On the cover of his Limited Editon Tour EP Rod wears a lighted navy sweater by British designer Lu Flux, with a lattice design that resmbles apple pie. So, you're probably wondering why is the sweater sexy? Because it's the classic sweater that a hot girlfriend wears, and the sweater belongs to her hot boyfriend. This was very popular in the '80s. So in this case, Rod isn't the hot girlfriend, but the hot boyfriend wearing nothing but a sweater inside the yuppie penthouse. See, this is where the sex appeal lies: the fact there's nothing underneath the sweater...well...except warm flesh.

Let's also not forget that Bright Light Bright Light's image and music is guided by the 80s, but of course the darker side.

And the man to thank for this 80s-style sexiness is art director Alun Davies, a tall, rosy-cheeked man with runway looks. Davies is also responsible for the battle armor that Lady Gaga and her dancers wore on her Monster Ball tour for the last 14 months, whenever they performed the song "Bad Romance."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Photographer Steve Henry Creates Sexy Mysteries

Fosse bowler hats
 You ever wonder why people look sexier when their bodies are covered partially by something else? And why is it that when people cover or obscure their eyes, it makes you gravitate towards them? The answer is mystery. Mystery is sexy and sex and mystery are the main ingredients of photographer Steve Henry's work.

First off, Steve's subjects are often ruggedly handsome men with muscles, but they're not shaved mannequins. They're often not conventionally handsome. He creates a feeling of earthiness through bare feet and the environment. Steve puts these men in everyday settings like a rustled bed inside a house, in a forest, at the beach and even the desert.

The one thing to remember is that Steve's subjects are never completely nude. Instead he includes objects and materials that cover parts of the body. The men in his photos are often shirtless with jeans, and the zipper unfastened. The unfastened zipper is a tease, but it keeps you wanting more. He shows their bare butts and even their private parts, but never does the nudity feel pornographic or uncomfortable. The naturalistic locations help to make the nudity, well, natural.

As great as he is at photographing flesh, it's clear that Steve understands the transformative power of clothing. In one series of photos, a man's face is at first covered by shadows hinting that he doesn't want to be seen. As the photos progress, he wears less clothes stripping down to nothing but a jock-strap. This is him putting himself out there, naked, finally unafraid of judgement. It's interesting that the series ends with the same man now dressed in a Hurley tank top, dark sunglasses and smoking a cigarette. Clothes have changed the man and he's stepped into a role, a performance. When he was completely naked, he looked innocent and pure, but now he's turned him into a bad boy with his body covered, especially his eyes.

Earthy locations

It's the eyes that Steve Henry regards as sacred. The eyes are the windows to the soul and Steve may not hesistate to show someone in the buff, but he rarely shows their eyes. In most of his photos, the eyes are obscured, either by objects or shadows. There's one series that's particularly interesting because you don't get to see the eyes of anyone. The first pic is of a shirtless guy holding a dove. Purity. The following pic is a triptych of two men in a naked combat. Their faces are black holes. The next pic is of a man pulling his shirt over his head revealing his ripped body, but the shirt hides his face. The next pic is a diptych (two panels side by side) of a man whose eyes are blanked out by shadows, but the contours of his face are visible thanks to some light. The pic right next to him is of the same man wearing a blindfold. There's blood on his shoulders and chest. He might have gotten the blood from the prior fight.

Other objects that Steve's subjects wear are things Bob Fosse would be proud of. In some photos, the men wear bowler hats, the same kind of bowler hats that were heavily featured in Fosse's Broadway musicalsChicago and Cabaret. The bowler hats were Fosse's way of using his weaknesses as strengths: Fosse used hats for himself and his actors because he was insecure about his baldness. In an interview, Steve Henry says that he loves photographing a person's beauty, even if they don't know it themselves. The obscuring of the body and Steve's philosophy both speak to the unconventiality of his subjects and even their quirkiness.

Channeling Jack Nicholson

Speaking of quirkiness, Steve has one photo of a guy who looks just like Jack Nicholson did in The Shining. It's a split screen/diptych format, on the left side is a slightly disheveled man who looks more like Nicholson in his "Here's Johnny!" scene. To the right of this, the same man looks cleaned up and is wearing a tuxedo. It reminds me of when Nicholson's character dies and his spirit combines with mad men of the past to become a part of legend and he becomes a part of the framed 1920 photograph on the wall. Perfectly, there's a framed photograph on the wall in Steve's photo.

Legend is what Steve Henry's work will eventually become after his brand of photography becomes world-famous. After observing Steve's portfolio of work, it's clear that he's developed his own brand: a brand of real men and transforming their insecurities into beauty.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Analyzing Cassidy Noblett's "Just Dance" Performance

Cassidy plays the role of New York City club kid. July 2010
Being that I'm a huge fan of Cassidy and his dancing, I decided to analyze Cassidy's performances in a different way by asking myself six questions that dancer-choreographer Daniel Nagrin explained in his books about dancing. I found the questions extremely helpful. The questions help organize and clarify all the thoughts flowing through my head. The performance I applied Nagrin's Six Questions to was Cassidy's performance of "Just Dance" with Gaga on her Monster Ball tour last year.

The Six Questions go as follows:
1. Who or What?
2. is Doing What?
Action Analysis:
a. the Spine
b. the Beats
c. the Subtext
3. To Whom or What?
4. Where or When?
5. To What end?
6. The Obstacle?

1. Who or What? Gaga and the dancers are New York City club kids. Cassidy looks like a glam-punk with his hair curved into an Elvis pompadour, and wearing a hot pink outfit consisting of a pink vest adorned with a graffitti design and black shorts. A piece of pink fishnet adorned one of his thighs where his asymmetrical shorts exposed some good leg. "Just Dance" is a song Gaga wrote while partying in New York City one night before flying to Los Angeles to write and record the song with RedOne the next morning so the performance reflects her past.

2. is Doing What? He is partying in Manhattan, meaning dancing and drinking and spending precious time with friends.

a. The Spine: The exact action that drives this dance exists only in Cassidy's mind, so I can only guess, but I'd say a need for peace of mind and embracing the moment is the spine of the performance, at least, what he shows visibly. His trademark megawatt smile expresses joy. Of course we have to realize that Cassidy is interpreting LaurieAnn Gibson and Lady Gaga's vision, but he clearly puts his stamp on the choreography.

b. The Beats

Cassidy starts off the performance emerging from the shadows after Gaga plays the keyboard that's inserted inside the hood of her Rolls Royce where the engine should be. Yes, that's right, the keyboard is the engine that brings the city to life and gets Gaga where she needs to go, even though her car broke down. All she needs is music. She starts the performance alone and still and then she suddenly gets an idea to play the keyboard inside the hood of her car. Once she plays the opening chords of "Just Dance," her memories of partying with her friends in New York City come to life. Who knows if what comes to life around her is just a mirage, but somehow Gaga has transformed her lonely, dejected space into a jubliant celebration.

In this sense, Cassidy enters the stage as possibly a figment of Gaga's imagination. He makes use of the poles and stairwells around him running up the stairs in time with the music's percussion. He plays around with the dancers around him like cats in an alley. It's not long before Gaga and the dancers migrate to the upstage dancing the same steps in unison. By the time the chorus hits, Cassidy chokes himself with his hand around his throat and tilts his head back, giving a visual to RedOne's trademark siren that goes off like an alarm. The choking seems to simulate death. Then he launches into a series of vogue poses lifted right from Madonna's 1990 "Vogue" performances.

The performance doesn't stay the same and it's more dramatic than abstract. There's a destination to the performance and that's to get to the party, but most of the performance is spent traveling around the stage's mock city scenery (Neon lights flashing services like "dentist" "Breast Implants" definitely representing the seedier side of a city setting). The destination is not purely literal, but figurative in the sense that Cassidy and company are trying to reach a mental state of happiness.

For the most part, the dancers perform the same choreography that LaurieAnn Gibson taught them, but Cassidy sprinkles some of his own personal dance vocabulary. He's classically trained in ballet, so he reflects that in some of his movements. He arranges his legs in a semi attitude position when he performs a turn on one leg. At the end of the performance, Cassidy appropriates a move from Vanilla Ice's "Ice, Ice Baby" video at the end of the dance; kicking out one leg forward and then kicking it back and turning your whole body after the last kick.

c. The Subtext
One of Cassidy's biggest strengths is his exuberant persona, but in all great art is conflict and contradiction and although Cassidy is often seen smiling, laughing and energetic, I wonder if there's a dark side in his personality. His physicality and muscular frame belie his boyish charm and baby face. His moments of sexual awareness also belie his innocent persona. The only hint of subtext is when Cassidy's innocence is contradicted by his cheeky passes at Gaga, stroking her exposed thigh quickly as she passes him.

3. To Whom or What?

The shortest distance to the audience is through the other actor! Cassidy interacts with his fellow dancers in the context of their roles as New York City club kids (note that Cassidy is a southerner from North Carolina). The dancers are supposed to be friends on stage (although they probably are in real life) and Cassidy creates the feeling of camaraderie by nudging fellow dancer and laughing with them. By doing this, the audience gets the sense that Cassidy is friendly and is having the time of his life. Many people go to the theatre as an escape from a reality, or as a place where they can watch people act out their fantasies. Cassidy does this impeccably, making the audience want to be his best friend.

4. Where or When?

The space is New York City and the city streets, so hard concrete comes to mind and flashing lights. Also, the noise of people and automobiles. Cassidy uses the space well, hanging from poles and fire escapes displaying his playful persona. The time of the performance is not specific. It could easily be the 1980s or the far future. Time is not a factor in this performance.

5. To what end?
Cassidy performs in his own unique style because he can get down to the hottest hip-hop and R&B songs, but he sprinkles in some ballet into the mix adding some classic elegance.

6. The Obstacle?
The presence of alcohol is an obstacle to Cassidy's performance. Although alcohol loosens a person up, it also can endanger his life and erase or corrupt the celebratory experience. The dangers of the city also threaten Cassidy's adventures as a club kid. People dressed so flamboyantly and dancing in the street could bother the wrong person.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

J.Lo's New Single is 1990s Nostaglia

Illustration by Glenn Hilario
Jennifer Lopez's new single "On the Floor" reminds me of a car ride I had to the  club Katmandu in Jersey with some female friends and Robin S.'s 90s house classic "Show Me Love" blasted out of the car speakers. Of course I got nice and tipsy that Thursday night and I'm sure that's what J.Lo wants people to do when they hear "On the Floor." There's nothing about J.Lo herself that makes me think of that Thursday night car ride, but it's RedOne's techno/house beat that does.

The "la la la" hook is catchy, but other than that there's no real chorus. The bridge is the best part of the song. One thing "On the Floor" would benefit from is a big, explosive Duran Duran-like chorus that opens up along the lines of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" (another RedOne track). The song's structure is too literal because it just follows the melodies already programmed onto the beat. Instead of using a 90s melody for the chorus, the song maybe could have benefited from an 80s melody, and would result in a different mood. J.Lo herself has such a lifeless voice that she could have easily been a computer-generated voice. For all it's meaty beat greatness, when I hear "On the Floor" I long for a big, booming alto vocal (a la Lady Gaga) instead of J.Lo's  thin voice. For the most part, J.Lo mimicks the Puerto Rican rapper Pitbull (who guests on the song) in terms of flow. Pibull even sings a little bit of the chorus, so maybe it's not even J.Lo singing and just Pitbull's voice pitched higher. Maybe? 

 Through all the 90s nostalgia "On the Floor" will inspire, I think the best thing I discovered about it is that I can do the chorus dance from "Bad Romance" to the sounds of "On the Floor." Just picture that.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chris Colfer's Golden Globe Win is a Graceful Spectacle

Photo courtesy of

I've watched Chris Colfer's Golden Globes win for Best Supporting Actor in a TV series over and over again. I felt like I was transported into his body and I was experiencing everything he was. Let's put it this way, Chris Colfer was my avatar. And did I mention that my name is Chris.

 I could tell Chris was nervous and shocked, yet he walked up to the stage (a lonnnnggg walk might I add) with confidence brushing past tables occupied by Natalie Portman, Robert DeNiro and Matt Damon. There were certain details about Chris' win that made it the best win of the night. Much of it has to do with the celebrities that surrounded Chris. As he got up, his Glee cast mates were embracing and cheering him on (Lea Michele was bawling her eyes out). Ryan Murphy (creator of Glee) hugged him and kissed him on the cheek very affectionately (like the Fairy Godfather that is, in Chris Colfer's words). Eric Stonestreet (the chubby gay guy on the TV series Modern Family) padded Chris on the back, and get this, Chris almost collided with the actress Rita Wilson/wife of Tom Hanks (who was coming back from presumably a bathroom break) and the best part was that Chris did not yield, and Rita had to move. Sort of embarrasing on her part. It was like she didn't matter. Fierce! It seemed like Chris didn't even notice her because he had turned around to acknowledge Eric Stonestreet. I love the fact that Chris unconsciously took back the moment from Rita who was sort of interrupting his moment. She should have watched where she was going. But anyway, Chris' whole win was a graceful spectacle. He's this cute as a button gay kid with a high-pitched voice who carries himself with an empowering swagger giving words of empowerment to bullied kids in front of legends like Robert DeNiro. Ahhhh it was riveting.

See it for yourself below.