Wednesday, September 16, 1:00pm-2:00pm (Panel)
Speculative Selves: Gender, Race & Fantasy
- Many Men: The Appeal of Brockhampton, Diana Buendia (writer)
- On "Lemon Incest," the Creepy Provocation That Launched 12-Year-Old Charlotte Gainsbourg's Career, Kathy Fennessy (writer)
- Unpacking Caribbean music identities: exploring the sacred (mature) and profane (youth) in Trinidad’s Carnival music, Meagan Sylvester (U of the West Indies)
- Belcher Skelter: Bob's Burgers' Electric Youth, Margaret France (Yakima Valley College)
Many Men: The Appeal of Brockhampton, Diana Buendia (writer)
Five releases in, Brockhampton continues to wear the ‘boy band’ tag proudly. Their version is an experiment in autonomy – not a profitable industry move but an online communion of black, white and brown young men who took ownership of their means of production to make rowdy and defiant work. The safety of their friendship has allowed Brockhampton members to air out the specific ways in which life in suburban U.S. landscapes has formed them.
The tag however, is not dismissive of the original boy band phenomena. Instead it indulges in a similar relation of fame and desire now refracted through the experiences of a perspicacious leader, Kevin Abstract – black, gay and raised among white kids in Texas and intent on rapping as an escape route. Brockhampton’s own deployment of the boy band vernacular seizes upon a moment in which rap is definitely pop, even as it provocatively eschews the expectations placed on both rappers and boy bands.
Through this paper I’m interested in tugging at the ways in which the band has been read. Critically, the engagement has been lazy – they’ve been profiled as a novelty but in reviews mostly male writers have been suspicious of their saccharine harmonizing crossing genre lines; they’ve listened for sophistication in the context of a canon. But the diverse Brockhampton fan base is loyal. They meme and message board, aching for an entry into what is perceived as honest male camaraderie, warts and all.
So how is it that we “listen to the children,” as Brockhampton demands on their song TEETH? How are we as writers, as listeners, engaging with the emotional frankness of young men dissecting their masculinity, the white gaze and a ruthless music industry? What is their diverse fan base hanging onto through this self-conscious pop?
On "Lemon Incest," the Creepy Provocation That Launched 12-Year-Old Charlotte Gainsbourg's Career, Kathy Fennessy (writer)
In 1969, French provocateur Serge Gainsbourg caused an international sensation when he re-recorded his 1967 song "Je T'aime... Moi Non Plus" with his actress girlfriend Jane Birkin. In the new version, Birkin sighs orgasmically throughout the entire seductive track. Though banned in several countries and condemned by the Vatican, "Je T'aime..." topped the charts in Birkin's native England, and Gainsbourg took pride in its chart position of 69 in the United States. It's nearly impossible to imagine Donna Summer's more overtly erotic "Love to Love You Baby" existing without the precedent they set. Two years later, Serge and Jane welcomed a daughter, Charlotte. Never one to leave well enough alone, Serge and 12-year-old Charlotte recorded the synth-pop number "Lemon Incest" in 1984. The song and video strongly suggest a sexual relationship between father and daughter that both were quick to disavow. Even the lyrics, translated into English, describe "the love we'll never make together" as "the most beautiful, the rarest, the most disconcerting." Though it became a hit in France, and appeared on her debut album, 1986's Serge-written and produced Charlotte for Ever, she wouldn't release another album until 20 years later. Meanwhile, she became a skilled actress unafraid of--if not drawn to--sexually explicit, boundary-pushing material. Eventually she launched a music career that stands in opposition to that of her heat-seeking missile of a father by grappling with the losses of family members, like Serge and half-sister Kate, in a series of subtle, sensitive, increasingly personal albums. Was "Lemon Incest," then, a gift, a curse, a joke, or something more insidious? One way or the other, the scandalous provocation set the trajectory for a professional life which I will examine by looking at the ways Charlotte, now a mother herself, has simultaneously embraced and rejected its influence.
Unpacking Caribbean music identities: exploring the sacred (mature) and profane (youth) in Trinidad’s Carnival music, Meagan Sylvester (U of the West Indies)
There are two sides of the Carnival festivities of Trinidad and Tobago, and the popular music which accompanies the festival is also a dichotomy. One frame sees the Carnival of Trinidad as a “mature” performative ritual of cultural resistance and awakening, claiming a space and celebrating freedom from any kind of oppression (Sofo 2014, 17) and its accompanying Calypso music are inextricably interwoven and are tied to the identity of the citizenry. While, an alternative lens position’s Trinidad’s Carnival colloquially as “the greatest show on Earth” which promises “youthful” wild abandon, revelry and dissoluteness in its display. In particular, the frame for this article will center on the intersections within the discourses of the music scene as space and place within the non-metropole, non-urban locale, Caribbean isle of Trinidad. Using the perspective of Straw (1991) that the music scene can be both local and trans-local and (Peterson and Bennett 2004) virtual, together with the concept of the importance of the embodiment of social actors (Driver and Bennett 2014), this article will situate Trinidad’s Carnival as a vehicle for the sacred and the profane by exploring selected roles of specific dominant “mature” and “youthful” social actors of the festival within each one of those spaces.
Belcher Skelter: Bob's Burgers' Electric Youth, Margaret France (Yakima Valley College)
Bob’s Burgers never shies away from a musical moment. Its creators channel their enthusiasm for show tunes, disco, rock, and most of all, pop, into the hours of music generated over the animated sitcom’s ten seasons. Matriarch Linda’s compulsive extemporaneous songwriting aside, the bulk of Bob’s Burgers' musical moments involve the young Belchers. It would be challenging to find an animated character more obsessed with popular music than Bob’s Burgers’ Gene Belcher: like Bowie, he goes through an Aladdin Sane stage; like his mother, Linda, he wants to be Janet Jackson when he grows up; and like no other eleven-year-old born after the turn of the century, he elects to dress as Queen Latifah “from her U.N.I.T.Y phase” for Halloween. Sisters Tina and Louise lack Gene’s ambition to make music, but nearly match his passion in their obsession Boyz4Now. Jimmy Jr., the boy band’s only rival for Tina’s affections, expresses the highs and lows of early-middle-adolescence through dance. The young Belchers revel in nostalgia for a time when the ability to make and move to pop music was the true measure of masculinity. The 1980s, when an obsession with music and dancing was less strictly coded as effeminate or queer, is the spiritual setting in which the children of Bob’s Burgers thrive. The show’s popularity with Millennials and Generation Z gives the notion that singing and dancing makes a boy a better heterosexual romantic prospect a chance to find purchase within minds never touched by Fame, ears never soothed by Menudo, and booties never shaken by the Dirty Dancing soundtrack.