Posts Tagged ‘Chanel’

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lady gaga & beyoncé – telephone. (video review)

March 14, 2010

At the end of 2009, I rated The Fame Monster at #18 on my year-end album chart.  Although I do stand by that chart and I don’t think I would really change any of the albums that are on there, in hindsight Lady GaGa would actually be somewhere in the Top 10 (possibly quite high up).  I didn’t think so at the time, but the funny thing about The Fame Monster is that it has hidden depths and its songs are actually really enduring.  What’s more, unlike The Fame, the songs are actually about deep topics such as domestic violence (“Dance In The Dark”), intoxication (“So Happy I Could Die”) and poisonous relationships (“Bad Romance”). I find it ironic that I’ve lambasted Lady GaGa for pandering to radio too much with her repetitive nonsense hooks (“p-p-p-poker face / papa-paparazzi / eh eh / ooh la la ga ga ro ma ma” and so on), but now I find myself appreciating her songwriting craft and finding her songs becoming more solid (although The Fame Monster is streets ahead of The Fame, so in a way I’m just acknowledging her artistic progression).  So I apologise somewhat for kinda turning off Lady GaGa and not giving her her due (although her fans / “monsters” are quite off-putting and need to be less militant), although if she could keep off the repetition of nonsensical syllables that would be good.  Because she doesn’t need to do that.

And so we come to “Telephone”.  The song is about suffocating relationships, and Lady GaGa herself has said that it doesn’t just have to be a romantic situation, but could also symbolise the fact that when her telephone rings, it’s always because she has to get back to work in the studio and she can’t escape that.  The song itself is pretty strong, although it’s not as progressive as some of the other songs on The Fame Monster and resorts to the 4/4 beat that has completely oversaturated popular music (and did so about a year and a half ago).  Beyoncé’s feature is a rapid-fire verse over double-time beats and keeps the song interesting.

The video for “Telephone” was released on Friday, and it has become something of a Pop Event.  The hype the video received even before its premiere was immense, and now it’s being hailed by some as the successor to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”.  Others however are lambasting it for its apparent sexism and overt lesbianism.  I read in one place that you will remember exactly where you were when you first saw it, and that much is true (at least for me).  I had just returned home from work, it was about 3:30 and after keeping track of the video reviews on Twitter, I decided to give into my curiosity.  Upon the first viewing, I was a tiny bit underwhelmed but could still see the video’s bad and good points (of which my view hasn’t really changed).  I thought that Beyoncé’s appearance far outclassed Lady GaGa, not just because Beyoncé has had some acting lessons but also because Beyoncé is more of an effortless star (not in reality, but she doesn’t look as if she’s trying so hard).  I detested the overt product placement of Virgin Mobile, Chanel & the GaGa earbud headphones – but all the kids are doing it; I just expected Lady GaGa to have more class.  But then why should she? It’s money in the bank, and when your video is 9 and a half minutes long, you need some bank to be able to make that video look and feel effective and powerful.

I’ve rewatched the “Telephone” video a few times now, and each time my estimation of it has gone up.  While not exactly on iconic level (I think it’s far too soon to be throwing that word around; GaGa has only been around for 2 years), it’s another demonstration that Lady GaGa’s commitment to her artistry is strong, defiant and interesting.  The introductory jail scene serves to debunk the rumours of GaGa’s intersex status (duh), allows her to wear a host of outlandish outfits (striped shoulder-padded body suit / yellow police caution tape / super-studded leather jacket and underwear covered in chains) the best of which is undoubtedly the cigarette sunglasses (still smoking!).  The fashion continues with the huge black tricorne hat GaGa sports upon being bailed out of prison; the shredded USA flag (subtle!) clothes in which GaGa and Beyoncé dance in the diner scene; the folded geometric telephone hat and telephone receiver hairdo GaGa wears on her head; the leopardprint body suit à la Shania Twain’s “That Don’t Impress Me Much”; the closing lavender and black body sheets… not all of these ideas work (on a couple of occasions both GaGa and Beyoncé look nothing short of horrendous – for some reason, in the USA flag bikini and bright yellow hair, Lady GaGa reminds me somewhat of Ken from Street Fighter and I can’t shake this association!), but they all capture the viewer’s attention, and more importantly they all leave you with something to say after watching the video.  That’s possibly “Telephone”‘s biggest success – it provokes thought and inspires discussion.  We know this because even the broadsheet newspapers are talking about it.

I stand by my statement that GaGa does seem to be trying awfully hard at being controversial and “artistic”.  She’s made a couple of great videos now, but in view of the numerous costume changes (see above), storylines and scenes, it doesn’t seem to come easily.  For comparison, where better to look than her costar Beyoncé?  For the definition of an iconic music video, look no further than “Single Ladies”; everyone and their mama has seen that video and knows the dance.  The video is in black and white, has no storyline or costumes (other than a leotard and metallic glove), is done in one take and isn’t even an original idea (see Bob Fosse’s choreography on youtube). Most importantly, Beyoncé did it almost as an afterthought to her video for “If I Were A Boy” (which in my opinion is a truly beautiful, excellent video) without breaking a sweat; and yet this is the video that captured everyone’s attention.  Now, of course Beyoncé is not anywhere near as effortless as she appears; but she makes it look easy.  GaGa does not make it look easy, and although it’s admirable that she’s so committed to the symbolism and artistic integrity she conveys (and GaGa is clearly an intelligent and talented woman), I’m scared that because the media and the fans are so interested in her image, her look, and what she’s going to be wearing that they forget that Lady GaGa is actually a singer and a musician – the most important thing should be her music.  Which, as I said at the top, is actually quite good and shouldn’t get lost in all of the surrounding gloss, however layered and substantial that gloss may be.  What happens when Lady GaGa can’t get any crazier?  What about when she wants to strip away all the layers and be more vulnerable and natural?  Will everyone turn away from her then, because they just wanted the fancy clothes and elaborate videos?  Can people not listen to her music, her lyrics without the accompanying visual?  I hope I’m wrong, because if not then that’s pretty sad.

The storyline, just as the lyrics of the song itself, can be interpreted in various ways and I’m not going to get into that here; I think that some of the reviews I’ve read have been hilariously in-depth and I think that GaGa is intelligent enough to play along in pretending to have input heavy symbolism into outfits, storylines and lyrics where there is none; people seem to need to have a meaning to every single thing, whereas I often think that GaGa is just having fun and being crazy.  Which is great!  It’s entertainment.  And the “Telephone” video is certainly entertaining; I hated the product placement, and I don’t feel that the use of the Pussy Wagon was necessary (the Tarantino homages are apparent, with elements of Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction included) – but then that’s just because I find the Pussy Wagon unfeasibly garish.  Which, in Kill Bill, was the point, and I understand that.  I really enjoyed Beyoncé’s homages to the “Paparazzi” video in her poisoning the teacup, Minnie Mouse glasses and hand over her mouth when they censored the swearing.  I loved the Japanese cooking-programme style of “Let’s Make A Sandwich”, and the dialogue between Gaga and Beyoncé was intriguingly half-cheesy, half-hard-boiled (although Beyoncé can somewhat act, and Lady GaGa really can’t – yet).  Tyrese and Beyoncé’s subtitled conversation, spoken with only looks and facial expressions, was genius. The Thelma & Louise-esque ending neatly gave closure to the video, but also made viewers wonder what was in store (that “To Be Continued…”) for next time.

Overall, I thought that the “Telephone” video was excellent, and I’m intrigued to see how the music channels edit it down to song length.  It’s a thrilling watch, and while I’m not going to pretend that it is a perfect video, I think that to compare it to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is unfair; “Thriller” is not even Michael Jackson’s best video by a long shot, and Lady GaGa’s video deserves to stand in its own right.  “Telephone” is furiously entertaining, and shows an artist coming into her own, even if at this point the numerous costume changes and persistent homages, product placements and edgy fashion poses betray an artist not quite comfortable enough in her own skin to exude her artistry naturally.  Once it becomes a little more effortless (as it has for Beyoncé, Madonna and all the other greats), that’s when Lady GaGa will be iconic and symbolic of a new musical generation.  But she’s well on her way, and I hope that the media, fans and public will appreciate that, because I myself am learning to, little by little.

ps. If only my “Bad Romance” video treatment had ended in a jail rather than in a mental institution, it would have led perfectly into the “Telephone” video!  Ah well, can’t win ’em all 😉

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besot.

August 14, 2009

Apparently (according to my computer & my father, though the online dictionary says different) there is no such thing as the verb “to besot”.  You can have the adjective “besotted”, which means to be hopelessly and absolutely in love, and it originates from the old English noun “sot”, which means “drunkard” (intoxicated by alcohol, as opposed to love), and before that the French word “sot(te)” which means “foolish”.   Ultimately, it comes from the Latin “sottus”, but enough of that – you don’t come here to read a dictionary, and I didn’t create this blog to write one.  My point is, Nick & I were discussing fragrances and their names, and we came onto the subject of Katie Price’s ‘collection’.  Her perfumes are called “Stunning” and “Besotted”, and I began to ponder why perfume names seem to prefer adjectives (and of course, nouns).  “Curious”, “Spellbound”, “Pure”, “Notorious”, “Luscious Pink”, “Signature”, “Strictly Private”, “Vintage” as well as all of the colours in the rainbow are just the first ones which come to mind.  But how many perfumes go with imperatives?  I can think of “Believe” by Britney Spears, “Inspire” by Christina Aguilera, perhaps the new “Challenge” by Lacoste, and not much else. (Feel free to add others in the comments)  I like the idea of a perfume with a direct purpose manifest in its name: instead of “Stunning”, “Stun”; instead of “Besotted”, “Besot” (who cares if it exists).  It sounds more urgent, more fervent, more powerful.  I like that.

So Nick and I were making up fantasy names for fragrances (“Fascinate” was a joke idea of mine), and we also think that Britney Spears should release a male fragrance called “Womanizer” (certainly a wittier and sexier name than her forthcoming “Circus Fantasy”.  How much longer before “Fantastic Fantasy”, or even “Fantasy Fantasy” appears?).  What about “Seduce”?  “Captivate”?  I even like the sound of “Unravel”.  I think these sort of commands harness the power of the words and make them more immediate, more direct.  I suppose I am not a perfumer, nor a marketing exec, so I’m talking out of my depth.  But it sounds good to me.

As most people (I presume), I wear different perfumes depending on my mood and what essence I want to exude at a particular moment.  I don’t wear a fragrance just because it’s popular or because it’s a big seller, and I am no longer fooled (after working in fragrance for a year and a half) by which perfumes are male, female or unisex.  Gearing a perfume towards a specific demographic is a marketing tool to gain a target audience, and pretending that a perfume is gender specific is part of this marketing.  Scent is scent, it’s intangible, and if it suits you and you like it, wear it!  You’re wearing a fragrance and making it a part of who you are, whether it’s Chanel Pour Monsieur or Chanel No. 5.  You wear the fragrance, the fragrance and the name doesn’t (or shouldn’t) wear you.  I just want to briefly delve into my collection of 20-something bottles (it sounds bad to non-perfumistas; to avid fragrance addicts, it is a restrained collection) and list a couple of things I wear when I…

…am going to work.
If I’m off to work or going somewhere business-like, I don’t want something too intrusive or seductive, but something pleasant and slightly different from the norm.  After all, in a professional environment (especially when I was working in fragrance!), you don’t want to blend in and smell like everyone else, and you certainly don’t want to come off smelling cheap.  You have to make your mark and your uniqueness felt, all while not being so obvious about it that your fragrance screams for attention.  So I tend to plump for “Deseo for men” by Jennifer Lopez (because it’s a slight yet heady mix of mint, tonka bean and soft spices – and it’s also not available in the UK, so I have no fear of running into anyone else wearing it), “Guerlain Homme” because its refreshing mojito-esqueness refreshes me through the day and perks me up with daydreams of evening cocktails, and Escada’s “Sunset Heat” is perfect for after the gym, with its juicy watermelon supplying all the tart freshness I need to revitalise me after a hard workout.

…am going on a date.
I have always had luck pulling wearing “Gucci pour Homme II” for some reason, though it was a hard sell during my time working at the Perfume Shop.  It’s a sweet, sexy spicy concoction, with a prominent tea note that is hard for a lot of people to put their finger on.  It’s intriguing and unlike a lot of other fragrances out there, especially for the male market – it’s not aquatic, it’s not leathery, it’s not ultra-green pines and grasses.  Sadly, I hear that Gucci are discontinuing it, so I will have to stock up.  Otherwise, I find that I feel seductive wearing Emporio Armani’s “Diamonds For Men”, which is another sweet fragrance made up of bergamot, cocoa and cedarwood that has an artificial yet addictive spike to it (I’m aware that I use strange words to describe perfume such as “angular” and “dark”, because that is the most accurate way I can convey how a perfume makes me feel). Tom Ford’s “Black Orchid” smells expensive and intoxicating, with a dizzying mix of oriental florals, vanilla and patchouli, with a mysterious undercurrent of something both grimy and bizarrely exquisite (heady mystery = very good). And Lancome’s “Hypnôse” for men is a powdery amber than lingers closely to the skin and invites the object of my affections to come close and try to put their finger on the intangible scent I’m exuding.  They won’t be able to, but maybe they’ll end up touching me instead, and therein lies the art of seduction!

…am meeting friends for coffee / casual get-together.
If I’m just going about my day-to-day business in my free time, socialising and having fun, I want something light and carefree.  Again, I’m attracted by the sweet (though I have the kind of skin which turns everything to sweet anyway, even if it didn’t start out that way!) and although I wear what I want when I want and (despite these paragraph headings) have no hard and fast rules, I like: the strawberry citrus delight of Black XS, which attracted me with its sexy ad featuring model Will Chalker, and epitomises summer with every inhale; the giant sweet Barbie tuberose of Juicy Couture, which is supposed to be a girly perfume but I love it nonetheless because it accentuates when I am feeling carefree and fun-spirited; the orange-icing sugar delight of Ultrared Man (again by Paco Rabanne) that is just too good to be simply a summer “limited” edition (though it is widely available and therefore not really limited – another marketing ploy!); the lemon-almond light soufflé that is Dior’s “Escale à Portofino”, which sparkles on the skin and is another elegant summery delight.  I also enjoy the floral clean-ness of Prada “Infusion d’Homme” which I loved at first and found utterly intoxicating, but now has quietened down to be a resonant soapy wonder than makes me feel so fresh and so clean.

…am going to a club.
If you have ever been to a club, or in fact ever been in a confined space with other people for any length of time, you will know that a) you will sweat, and b) other people will sweat.  Therefore you need a fragrance that will really go the distance and last hours and hours, while smelling intoxicating and can pull attention towards you in the crowd.  This is the one situation where I really go all out for the “wow” factor (unless I’m in a perky/mischievous mood in the morning/daytime) and select my ultimate favourite fragrance of all, “Dior Homme”.  This fragrance is a sophisticated blend of iris, violet, patchouli and chocolate (as well as some heady alcoholic thing I can never quite put my finger on) and confidently resides in its own sophistication and element of class.  I love it, and I wear the original and the Intense, which of course amps up the scents and goes all night. 😉 It certainly does the trick!  A close runner-up is A*Men by Thierry Mugler, with its chocolate-coffee-sundae and hints of burnt rubber and blackened caramel roughing up the edges.  Spraying too much on is lethal to passers-by, but the right amount can last and last on the skin, and belies a gourmand sensuousness that has the power to satisfy hunger pangs with a single sniff.

…at home by myself in the evening.
It’s safe to say by this point that without wearing a scent, I feel naked.  All of the above fragrances are ones that I enjoy, and I’ve left plenty others out, but I’m quite a nocturnal person and on nights when I’m enjoying my own company, I want to wear something sensual and subtle.  Something that isn’t overpowering, that lingers close to my skin and that compels me to repeatedly sniff my wrists.  What comes to mind is “Deseo” by Jennifer Lopez, which is a sexy, subtle scent that has tinges of lush tropical greenery, hidden behind a layer of midnight rain.  It’s subtle, it is sexy and I feel very in touch with my emotions and my inner sensuality when I wear it.  Other sexy/sensual/ethereal fragrances that perform this same trick are Gucci “Rush” (floral musky fruit boom) and Mariah Carey’s “M” (tiare marshmallow vanilla whip).  This “trick” is exactly what I mean when I talk about making perfume a part of who you are; it is an emblem of your essence, and an olfactory summary of all that you are at that moment.

(ps. this site has been my perfumista bible and point of reference for a fair few months now: for all perfume news, reviews and articles, go to Now Smell This)