Fair Warning: This post isn’t exactly safe for work. Or viewing with your grandma in the room. Unless you have one of those really cool grandmas.
Nobody writes songs about sex like Macy Gray. She makes it sound so happy and fun, I almost want to go out and do it again (but not really, ’cause I’m totally over that business). Of course, this song isn’t exactly about sex. Or, at least not sex with a person.
This is the most charming ode to vibrators I’ve ever seen. Sure it’s the only ode to vibrators I’ve ever seen, but let’s not split hairs. The video fits the sweet tone of the song perfectly with its Nick Jr.-style animation. Don’t be confused by the childlike joy here, though; this is definitely a grown-up song about a grown-up subject. But Gray is deliberately refusing to play into the typical tropes about sex. This isn’t sexy in any of the stereotypical ways, and that’s what makes it so much fun. She’s reclaiming pleasure for everyone be reminding us that it doesn’t depend on anything outside of us. We can feel good, feel joy, feel sexual fulfillment, by loving ourselves. Be unashamed and unafraid of someone judging you because you might be a little unconventional. If you prefer to get your freak on without human companionship, that’s cool. After all, your vibrator will never do anything to hurt you. Unless the batteries are dead.
Today is the 50th anniversary of Dylan going electric at the Newport Folk Festival. Many of his fans felt betrayed that he would become just another Rock & Roll star. But Dylan himself has said that before Woody Guthrie, he wanted to be like Elvis. Going electric wasn’t a betrayal of some folkie ideal; Dylan didn’t owe anything to anyone or any movement. The only person he had to be loyal to artistically was himself. Plugging in an electric guitar was a declaration of his freedom and independence as an artist, and he’s never really looked back since then. Bob Dylan is many things to many people, but the one thing he will always be is himself. There’s no escaping that.
Sometime in 1966, Dylan was touring England. Half these shows each night were acoustic, and the other half was electric with Dylan backed up by some group called The Hawks (they’d later change that name to something a little less specific). After they’d finished the scathing “Ballad of a Thin Man,” a disgruntled fan called out “Judas!” The moment was electric, even without the Marshall amps. There was genuine violence in the air in that moment. Not to make light of any actual terror and violence, but it was like a gun had been fired. Dylan’s response is to tear into “Like a Rolling Stone” with a vengeance, and it is brilliant.
Mom’s doing somewhat better. She had a small stroke a couple of weeks ago, and we’re dealing with the recovery from that. Physical therapy, new ways of doing things, and general worry have been keeping us both busy. It’s been easier to lose myself in TV or games than to think, but I’m going to try to get back into the swing of things.
Appropriately enough, I want to share one of the television shows I’ve been using to avoid thinking lately. Steven Universe was created by Rebecca Sugar, a former writer for the wonderfully surreal Adventure Time. The show is about the adventures of the sweetly naive and optimistic title boy as he navigates the world and tries to figure out how to use his powers as a crystal gem. The other crystal gems are aliens who came to earth thousands of years before, and decided to stay and protect the planet from others of their kind. I thought it looked kind of silly from the commercials, but then I saw a couple episodes and got hooked.
For a cartoon, this is pretty sophisticated and adult stuff. There’s romance and conflict and struggles with difficult emotions like guilt and obsession. It’s even kind of sexy. The gems can fuse together to create new gems; one of the main characters, Garnet, is actually a fusion of two other gems who are, quite clearly, in love (you’ll see it in the clip). Fusion becomes a metaphor for relationships, both good and bad, as well as sex between the characters.
What’s any of this got to do with music? Plenty, because Steven Universe is full of pretty catchy tunes. Steven’s mother, a crystal gem named Rose Quartz, fell in love with his father, a wannabe rock star named Greg Universe. But all the characters sing on occasion; music is usually used as a way to quickly express some of the more complicated emotions the characters experience, or sum up plot points or action. This clip is one of my favorite musical moments as Garnet comes back together after Steven and the rest of the gems were captured by evil invading gems.
It really is a fun show. Longtime followers know I’m a big fan of cartoons, but this one definitely isn’t just for kids.