Friday, December 02, 2016

Memphis Jookin
I posted a video in 2010. It's interesting to see changes over time
Lil Buck’s very few numbers on Saturday ended with his most celebrated number, “The Dying Swan.” It’s said that Anna Pavlova, the most legendary exponent of the ballet version of this solo, never did it the same way twice; I’d guess from the few times I’ve seen Lil Buck that the same may well be true of him. He always ends, on the floor, wrapping his bent legs like hooks around his shoulders, but this time he gazed out at the audience while so doing, perhaps as if aware that this feat was part of his own legend and that he was trapped by it. Earlier, he reared up hugely and opened his body out to the air with a more amazingly throwaway speed than I have seen from him before; he spun around the stage on his knees; and inevitably his feet took him across the stage in gliding variants on the moonwalk.

If there was one feat on Saturday I hope I never forget, however, it occurred in an earlier solo, in which, with his torso angled toward the audience, he moved his shoulders in seeming orbit around his head as if they were a loose loop, an amoeba anchored only by his neck. I noticed too that he is achieving a new mastery of slow motion; he delivered some phrases as if showing us frame-by-frame breakdowns of running or gesturing.

These and other features were physically astounding. But, though there’s no doubt he shows the mind and musicality of an artist, his movement on Saturday never felt like sustained poetry; and his “Swan” has become — perhaps has always been — a collage of wow effects. Although Lil Buck comes from the world of jookin, I’ve seen, in Memphis, other jookin performers less physically accomplished but more entrancing in rhythmic continuity and witty invention. Most of his music, a collaboration with the violinist Yoon Kwon, was poorly chosen. Before his “Swan,” Ms. Kwon gave us a chunk from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” over a taped rock version of the familiar orchestration; and too much of the event felt like a synthetic assortment of clichés, lollipops and razzle-dazzle.

The famous/forgotten SNL video doesn't stay up very long. This is another one.
Toni Basil and The Lockers.

Basil's pretension got in the way. Break dancing was always loaded with irony and humor. At it's best, like the best hip-hop, it wasn't "pop". Camp humor is the self-depracating humor of insecurity, as opposed to the playful arrogance, and generosity, of confidence.

"I’ve seen, in Memphis, other jookin performers less physically accomplished but more entrancing in rhythmic continuity and witty invention." Macaulay doesn't slum. He's not a snob.
Brilliant pop stars are in a situation always verging on tragedy. Fame and genius become mixed. And there's the genius of Barnum and the genius of performance. Barnum was a stage manager not the lion jumping through hoops; Prince became both. And unlike most pop stars he was a brilliant musician. 
Bowie's performance as persona was more interesting than what became Prince's pop theatrics, but Bowie was more actor than musician. Dirty Mind came out as Bowie was fading into celebrity, but Dirty Mind wasn't pop. And when Prince became pop, it was with all the seriousness that Bowie gave up on. 
See also Marie Lloyd and Thérésa.

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