“Controversy” Abounds! Erakuh Badu vs. the Flaming Lips
Before you read this, you have to understand that NOTHING IS REAL. If it has to do with PR, celebrities, musicians, movies, or music, you can rest assured there’s a bunch of money funding however it is that you got ahold of the information. There are no accidents. There are no coincidences. Everything is a lie.
Friday, a friend of mine sent me a video by the Flaming Lips and Erykah Badu. Next to the link she wrote “fucking intense!” If you ever want my attention, just write “fucking intense!” next to it and I’ll be sure to check it out. I’m not particularly fond of the Flaming Lips and I’m only half and half on Badu, but I trust this friend’s judgement. Plus, she used to do makeup for me and I can say without hesitation that I’ve subjected her to a large amount of my dark, subconscious musings through some very interesting photo shoots and she knows me quite well.
So, here you go. (A note: The nudity is Badu’s sister, Nayrok.) There are conflicting reports about how this got into the world. I’ve read that the Lips themselves “leaked” it, and I read that it was just “leaked” in it’s raw, semi-edited state without having been approved by Badu. Badu goes to Twitter, asks her fan base what they think, all hell breaks loose. She complains that its not what she expected and that she never approved the release. She says it’s a cheap way for FL to get publicity. And so on and so forth. A war of words ensues with Flaming Lips. Badu’s followers, in what can only be described as “internet rage” are whipped up into a tizzy. The Lips release a statement apologizing. And then they get into a “twitter argument” (I find that “twitter argument” is a difficult thing to write, as an adult.)
If you watch the video (and by now, I assume you have) it’s actually pretty fucking intense. But on top of that, it’s pretty fucking good. I like Badu’s voice, I like the sadness, the slow motion, the visual language. Oh, and I like the blood and glitter, too. In all honesty, aside from what is obviously meant to be a head-turning video, it’s a good song. It’s good art by both teams. On top of all of that, it’s shot really well. It’s not Madonna kissing Brittany Spears onstage at an awards show. It’s intimate and thoughtful. Yes, there is all manner of nudity. And all manner of not-so-subtle symbolism. Should you swoon from shock and horror? Of course not.
Some things to ponder as we watch this unfold:
Art by committee is SHIT. If you are an artist, you should not submit ANYTHING to the court of public opinion. The world doesn’t need a bunch of art thats been filtered through the internet. We already have that. Ever wonder why movie endings suck? FOCUS GROUPS. Just make art and put it out there. Don’t ask for anyone’s fucking approval. You’ll never get it and you’ll die scared.
This is more press than the Flaming Lips or Badu has gotten in like a million years. They both should be thankful. On top of that, its because they made something pretty cool, and not because their bus flipped over or someone went into rehab.
I’ve NEVER had anyone come back to me aghast two weeks later because they had NO IDEA it was going to look like that. I’ve been on a lot of photo shoots. I’ve covered people in all manner of things…milk, blood, mud, pig intestines, etc. But because of the magic of digital photography, you can show people exactly what it looks like a millisecond after you make it. You can rest assured that Badu and her sister knew how it looked. And the art director knew how it looked. And her PR person knew how it looked. And her personal assistant knew how it looked. And the record label knew how it looked. I would love to believe that big name artists still get together in a room and just hammer out awesome shit alone in a cloud of weed smoke without the all-knowing eye of money and commercialism lording over them. BUT THEY DON’T.
You can’t just say your sorry or claim it wasn’t your fault when people don’t understand. Not everyone will understand. Sometimes the models don’t understand. Sometimes my wife doesn’t understand. That’s entirely okay. The people you want will stand by you, the people you don’t will fuck off. Or call the One Million Mom’s to boycott you. (I am hoping SO HARD I can make something that the One Million Moms will boycott.) Or whatever. In the long run, you look weak when you try to squirm out of it. You look awesome when you hold your head up keep on doing awesome stuff.
I am bummed that this is the best music video I’ve seen in a while and both parties are cowering in their respective corners and arguing with one another. You guys made something WITH TEETH! Pat yourselves on the back and hope you can do that again. The world of mass-produced media is so watered down and safe for fear of upsetting someone who might otherwise go buy an album. You guys should all hug it out, give each other some SERIOUS high-fives, and keeping kicking ass.