Posts Tagged ‘integrity’

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Proust questionnaire.

January 18, 2012

The principal aspect of my personality.

I already knew that this questionnaire was going to be difficult because it is going to force me to look at myself as other people see me, while also considering myself from the point of view of the person who knows me best. I guess that therefore, the principal aspect of my personality is passion – my heart loves fiercely, and my brain works constantly.

The quality that I desire in a man.

Just one? Well, in that case, it has to be integrity. Or possibly, to be secure enough in himself to allow himself to be openly vulnerable and not get caught up in machismo bullshit. Perhaps the principal aspect of my personality should have been verbal diarrhoea…

The quality that I desire in a woman.

To be an independent thinker and not follow the crowd – in life just as in fashion.

What I appreciate most about my friends.

Their intelligence, their honesty, and their loyalty.

My main fault.

Overthinking things, second-guessing people and situations until it drives me quite mad.

Faults for which I have the most indulgence.

I can’t resist a mischievous streak.

My favorite occupation.

Singing and all that is music-related. Or otherwise, shopping with friends and sitting in a café, talking openly and honestly about love and life.

My dream of happiness.

To be with my partner forever, in a nice house in the city near the beach, and to have enough money to not have any real worries and to be able to provide for my family. I know it is predictable but I can’t think of anything that would make me happier. Oh, and throw in also having a killer body and a wardrobe that would be the envy of Tom Ford.

What would be my greatest misfortune?

To have not been raised by a mother who gave me her all (even when it was sometimes too much) and taught me important human values far more insightful than what is commonly and unintelligently accepted as “intelligence”.

What I should like to be.

Inspirational, successful on my own terms, genuinely original, and in love for the rest of my life.

The country where I should like to live.

This is quite an impossible question – I can choose 5 or 6 cities I am enamoured with from countries around the world. And I want to live in them all!

My favourite colour.

Red. Or black for clothes. I also like silver for jewellery, because it goes well with my black clothes. But then why choose silver when you could have gold?! So I will stick with red.

The flower that I like.

It’s a cliché, but I like roses – they are romantic and intricate. But when I was young, my favourite flowers were white trumpet lilies, and I still think they are beautiful.

My favorite bird.

The phoenix.

My favorite prose authors.

I am currently enjoying the Nordic crime novel trend (although I did feel somewhat embarrassed when I saw that Waterstones had a special section for this kind of book – I don’t like to feel so easily categorised) so Jo Nesbo and Stieg Larsson are up there. I have also always enjoyed Stephen King’s books, as well as Sapphire and Virginia Euwer Wolff. My favourite author that I studied at university was Faulkner, because the way he manipulated language and made the reader work to decipher and put together his images and plotlines was genius.

My favorite poets.

I don’t like traditional poetry that adheres rigidly to a form or standard verse / rhyme structure, because I feel that this often comes at the expense of true meaning and emotion. I enjoyed Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf. And Herb Ritts was a poet with the camera.

My heroes in fiction.

I thought that Precious from Sapphire’s Push was inspiring and heroic. Other than that, I don’t really have a good memory for any literary heroes I have.

My favorite composers.

Classically, my favourite is Tchaikovsky. Speaking in modern terms, I adore Mariah Carey, and she is an accomplished artist in every sense of the word.

My heroes in real life.

My mother is beyond amazing. Inspirational in the way that she raised me, the ethics and conscience she instilled in me, and also the way that she has stuck by my father through all of his foolishness (I’m being deliberately vague because this is my private life) when most wouldn’t have, and ensured that their marriage lasted nearly 30 years.

My favorite names.

Toby and I discuss the names that we would like for our children. I love the name “Summer” for a girl. It just conjures up carefree beauty to me. For a boy, I really don’t know…

What I hate most of all.

Liars, people who are fundamentally inconsiderate, wasps, budgeting, and the fact that things which are bad for you are so much more enticing and delicious than those which are good for you.

The gift of nature that I would like to have.

I would love to be able to fly. I think that is what this question is aiming for? Either that, or have a body that does not store fat on its midsection.

How I want to die.

Youthful in spirit, if not in body. Part of me still has the childish hope that I may never die – I would like to live forever! But at the age that I am now.

My present state of mind.

Thankful that after so many years of thinking it would never happen to me, I have found happiness and true love.

My motto.

If you don’t feel good, then you might as well look great.

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Christina Aguilera – Bionic. (album review)

June 14, 2010

As you can tell from my current blog layout, I am very much feeling the imagery of Christina Aguilera’s current Bionic era.  It’s fierce, severe and pushes the envelope.  Artwork such as the front cover (above) and other graffiti-inspired cyborg manipulations handled by D*Face push the envelope and also serve to symbolise Christina as human machine which creates fine music hence “Bionic”.  Various analyses of this robotic imagery could be and have been made: on the one hand, Christina Aguilera in her superhuman form triumphs over all her competitors and makes superior , near-perfect music because she has this bionic element to her; on the other hand, as part-robot, Christina can only ever produce a facsimile of what music is supposed to be, while never quite getting close enough to the organic, human qualities in music that elevate it beyond the calculable – qualities which cannot be quantified or mechanised.  In Bionic, as in life, the truth lies somewhere between these two opinions.

Bionic the album is a long listen – 18 tracks in its standard version, 23 in its deluxe (with iTunes bonus track “Little Dreamer”, a likeable but throwaway confection, making a grand total of 24).  I’ll dispense with the additional 5 bonus tracks first: they are, by and large, bonus tracks for a reason: either they are not strong enough to be considered for the main album (“Monday Morning” is pleasant but lackadaisical; “Birds Of Prey” is lyrically mysterious and interesting, but musically and vocally it’s too much mainstream dance that Kelis would do a lot better with on her current Flesh Tone project), or they don’t fit thematically with the empowering / sexual / carefree / mature feel of the album.  “Bobblehead” is a thrilling production that stutters and races to its climax with the wonderful lyric: “I never play dumb to get what I want / and always come out the one that’s on top”; however, its main hook is a nonsensical mumble that may be the point of the lyrics, dissing idiot girls who dumb themselves down and preferring to deploy her own intelligence, but it’s still a nonsensical mumble which fails to use Christina’s vocals to much effect.  “Stronger Than Ever” is a ballad that is lyrically strong (and embodies my current struggle with my parents) and vocally able, but it just lacks that something.  “I Am (Stripped)” is a lovely album closer but is a more acoustic version of one of the main album tracks, and so it’s understandable why it’s relegated to bonus status.

So, to the main event. To my ear, Bionic moves in three arcs.  In its first, it goes for the jugular with relentless, futuristic uptempos; it then cools down into a sensuous, emotionally vulnerable, mature ballad section; finally, it picks up again for a closing triad of uptempo songs that epitomise fun.  While it’s possible that the album could be trimmed down to make a more concise, compelling listen, it flows very nicely throughout and only has a couple of stumbling points.  Christina Aguilera said that she wanted something which sounded futuristic, but with elements of the organic; something which integrated her new emotional maturity as a mother with her desire to remain playful and sexy.  On this point, she has succeeded: Bionic has elements of all of this.  Tracks such as “Bionic” and “Elastic Love” incorporate computerised effects to distort Christina’s voice, along with buzzing, whirring productions that sonically embody the bionic cyborg face of her album cover. However, on tracks such as standout “You Lost Me” and “All I Need”, Christina is stripped of the musical gloss of the faster tracks to be backed by little more than a piano.  “All I Need” is also a touching, mature tribute to her son, which nicely avoids being mawkish or saccharine like Britney Spears’ unlistenable “My Baby” from Circus.  Finally, sex is all over this album, and from the enticing “Woohoo” to the seductive “Sex For Breakfast” (which I have yet to play for my boyfriend, but when I next see him in July, I am using this song on him!), it’s explicit without being pornographic, edgy without crossing that line.  In this respect, the Christina Aguilera of “Dirrty” is still present, knowing how to be provocative while still being musically relevant.

However, in the video for “Not Myself Tonight”, Xtina makes her return and perhaps pushes the envelope a little too far.  S&M get-ups, Madonna tributes aplenty, and bisexual flirtations are almost par for the course at this point, and Christina Aguilera is more than entitled to use them considering her influence on current female artists in the mainstream over the past 10 years.*  However, although “Not Myself Tonight” is an understandable choice as Bionic‘s lead single considering its radio-friendly sound, it’s not futuristic and it’s not exciting enough to merit the edgy, sex-fuelled imagery.  Rather than hookless, it sounds like a bunch of hooks jostling together for attention over a dance beat (which has a couple of exciting tribal flourishes), the result of which means that sometimes the song sticks, on other listens it doesn’t quite get there.  A better first single might have been the thrilling, soaring title track, or uptempo album standout and follow-up single “Woohoo”, on which Xtina extols the virtues of good oral sex, recruits Nicki Minaj for a fine rap segment, uses her vagina (the titular “Woohoo!”) for a cowbell, and tops it off with a throbbing, buzzing dance break coda for good measure.  Along with “You Lost Me”, “Lift Me Up” and album closer “Vanity”, “Woohoo” is an album standout where all of Christina’s chemical ambitions for Bionic come together perfectly to produce some exemplary pop.

Bionic itself has no bad songs, but there is some filler: “Prima Donna” comes at the end of the first album arc of jugular-ripping uptempos, and is the weakest of them, with little lyrical know-how or production excitement to give it its own identity after the tracks preceding it.  “My Girls” is a ‘riding in the car with your top down’ sort of song, but comes off as fluffy compared to the album’s meatier offerings: although Christina proves (responding to criticisms that she oversings) that she can vocally restrain herself on songs such as “Elastic Love” with its amusing and witty stationery metaphors, and the tender “All I Need”, “My Girls” needs the vocal melisma to give it some spark; as it stands, it’s a little too laid back.  Nevertheless, 2 out of 18 songs (or 15, excluding interludes) is not bad and perhaps a better result than I was expecting.  Sure, several songs on the album are not immediate: “Glam” takes a few listens to hit its stride with its subtle, fibrillating beats and “Vogue”-esque spoken-word verses, while “Vanity” initially startles the listener with its unbridled use of the word “bitch”, references to Christina making herself “wetter” before marrying herself as her “lawfully wedded bitch” and effectively giving the finger to everyone who doesn’t have such bravado.  Only by the song’s end (and possibly a couple of repeat listens) does it sink in that the track is a storming highlight, a perfect album closer, utterly hilarious and ridiculous (and knowingly so), with a vocal flourish that knocks all competition to the floor before her son’s voice confirms all suspicions: his mother really is the shit.

At the end of the day, it’s this kind of confidence that makes Bionic a great success – Christina Aguilera believes that she rules the world, and this kind of ambition almost single-handedly propels her music to heady heights.  It’s a new page for Christina, and she’s secure enough in her ability to try different things: the mélange of styles is a little disorientating until repeated listens expose the subtleties and intricacies in her vocals, lyrics and the songs themselves.  “Lift Me Up” is another beautiful, soaring track that was slightly superior in its stripped down live version performed on the Haiti telethon, but still thrills within the album.  “I Am” is a declaration of humanity, imperfection and adulthood that lends substance to the polished sheen of Bionic‘s robotic side, deployed confidently, efficiently and effectively for example on clubsong “Desnúdate” (which neatly remembers and includes Christina’s Spanish-speaking audience and heritage).  If Christina experiments with textures in her voice, sometimes preferring subdued rumbles to soaring melismas, she still shows that she can do both better than most other female artists.  At the end of the day, Christina Aguilera is an musical artist with a personal and professional vision that she fulfils 85% of the time.  Her misfires are excusable and never in poor taste so much as merely a little bland or inconsistent – in time, Christina will learn to totally excise these from her projects.  Most importantly, while some of Bionic indeed caters to current mainstream tastes and is hardly an obscure sonic revelation, the majority of it is interesting and thrilling, and rings true as Christina Aguilera’s own personality and intention which doesn’t give a fuck about current radio trends (in my opinion, less than half of Bionic would get spins on mainstream radio).  For this, her sales might suffer, but her artistic integrity remains intact and hopefully the mainstream radio audiences and buying public one day will catch up.

* I’ll address this once and only once: anyone who thinks that Christina Aguilera is copying Lady GaGa is a) suffering from memory loss and should go back to Christina Aguilera’s last two album eras which were mired with controversy and blazed with exciting fashions and imagery, b) suffering from hearing loss as Christina can sing GaGa – and pretty much anyone else – under the table, c) has no respect for what Aguilera has achieved over the past 10 years – while GaGa has had a fantastic 2-year run and displays much potential (her music and videos are definitely getting more intriguing), she’s still only been around 2 years and more respect should be shown to anyone who successfully completes a decade in the music industry, and d) completely overlooking Gwen Stefani, whose hairstyle Christina mimics in her “Not Myself Tonight” video, and whose image, sound and career Lady GaGa has borrowed liberally from, mixed with a bunch of fashion designers, and passed off as her own to those too young, too unaware or too amnesiac to know any better.