Monday, May 2, 2011

Adele: Rolling in the Deep

I am in love with this singer. Seriously:

I wouldn't call this video "entertaining," so much as "enthralling." And even though I'm sure it wasn't cheap, it is simple. The director, Sam Brown, made a great choice to keep the focus on Adele's actual performance, the voice leaving her body and her facial expression (and she's very good at acting while singing). It's an old-fashioned magical aspect of watching live music and has been largely missing from pop music. I'm tired of female musicians being forced into a convenient box and having their creative talent limited by marketing, so it's nice to see it done right.

My husband remarked the other night, "It's shit that the edgy art you see in Charleston was cutting edge in NY about fifteen years ago." I opened my mouth to join in the complaint-- I was ready!-- but then realized where really contemporary art can be seen in Charleston: interior design. Design has consistently echoed contemporary art about ten years later: in the early sixties, the simple unadorned shapes mimicked the abstract expressionism of Lee Krasner and Alexander Calder from the early fifties. Layouts and wall treatments felt like an upscale gallery: a big white box. In the eighties, everything was supposed to be "sculptural," echoing the pure colors, geometric shapes and industrial feel of seventies minimalists like Donald Judd, Dan Flavin and Frank Stella. Trendy layouts were more like artists' lofts and guerrilla art spaces in "up and coming" New York. Now upscale hipster nests and trendy King Street furniture stores resemble '90s gallery installations. Loose hanging light bulbs; stark, careless-looking furniture layouts that seem to have been culled from here and there (a la struggling artist finding supplies), vignettes culled from "found objects;" artwork casually leaning against a wall, everything "reclaimed." There aren't too many visual arts exhibits that look like this in Charleston (even though it's hard to find one that doesn't in big cities) but the look is very prevalent in interiors.

So, to get back to the video, I noticed that the scenery looked like guerrilla art "happenings" and generally like a series of art exhibits in a trendy gallery. The director knows Adele's audience well: young, interested in the art scene, probably female (as are about 70% of art school applicants) interested in something with depth but probably not willing to sit through a Bruce Nauman-style ordeal.

Of course the whole reason this slung-together installation look was developed in the seventies and eighties was to avoid being an aesthetic. Conceptual artists were rebelling against the art market's iron-fisted control over artists, so they made art that wasn't exactly an object (installation) or wasn't made to be sold (not traditionally beautiful or cool). Those artists are probably super-pissed about how trendy and commodified the look is now, but I think it's kind of funny. Maybe that makes me a capitalist tool? To continue in that vein I'm glad the 50s/60s acoustic "wall of sound" is trendy again. Sure it was co-opted by major labels from musicians seeking to rebel against pop trends but it's still nice to hear it on the radio once in a while.

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