The old adage, “there’s nothing new in rock ‘n’ roll” must be one of the most over-used clichés in the world, being used to excuse, to denigrate, to explain and to dismiss in equal measure. So what do I think of Janelle Monae’s new song and video?
Well, though the vocal is very good, the song is formulaic – but then, so much music is formulaic, many fans and listeners are scared when things don’t follow the rules or change unexpectedly, and in any case, it’s not entirely predictable and has good onward-rushing energy. The video is an update of Sinead O’Connor’s Prince cover, ‘Nothing Compares to You’ – and several thousand fixed-camera, solo face videos made since – and yet, it has its own thing, mostly because young Janelle has an exceptional face. She’s obviously a good actress, to boot.
For contrast, compare Janelle’s video with Christopher Ecclestone’s wonderful performance in the video for ‘Proof’ by I Am Kloot.
Art rises up with reference to all other art, not in isolation. Leaving aside style considerations, they are cut from the same cloth, both good in their different ways, one dealing with sorrow, the other joy.
In a comment thread, I read that Janelle can’t really have been sincere, since she was wearing waterproof makeup in preparation for shedding crocodile tears. Do people have no concept of performance? This obsession with sincerety misses the point of art, which pretends in order to enlighten.
In response, I wrote the following couplet:
People are complaining that she’s insincere
Don’t they know authentic is so last year?
One day I’ll put those lines inside a song of my own, and make a solo face fixed shot video to add to the glorious pile.