Monday, May 01, 2006

Kanye West - Touch the Sky (2006)

*** (of four)

I've never been a huge fan of Kanye West's self-importance, rampant egomania and abject inability to look intellectually impressive in a magazine interview, but somehow Kanye keeps putting out quality singles and videos. And I can't fault him for that. "Touch the Sky," a 1970s nostalgia trip from director Chris Milk, is all washed-out yellows, purples and roses as Evel Kanyevel (yeah, I know) heads in a vintage limo with girlfriend Pamela Anderson to the Arizona desert to leap the Grand Canyon (or some similarly enormous canyon) in a red, white and blue rocket.

But Kanyevel can't just perform his stunt, no. Before the rocket launches, he must contend with several bouts of Unnecessary Drama. First when Pam, in the naughty nurse coochie-cutter jumpsuit, sulks in his trailer, concerned for his safety. Begs him not to get in the rocket. Then, while a reporter is asking Kanye to defend his comments about President Nixon ("Richard Nixon doesn't care about sane people"), up shows a monster afro'd Nia Long to claim she got her ass left for a white girl. Which, shit, Nia's cool, but what guy's gonna turn down the chance to get with Pam, rampant venereal disease carrier or no?

Anyway, he does get his girl stuff sorted out and climb into the rocket. And you'd be surprised that, with a king-sized ego like Kanyevel possesses, he allows his rocket to arc a hundred or so feet above the canyon and then take a fiery 180-degree nosedive into the canyon, to the overdrawn expressions of grief on both Pamela and Nia's face. Unless maybe he thinks he's indestructible. Either way, sitting in the Oval Office with a distinct smile as he watches the footage on broadcast television? Yup. Tricky Dick.

India Arie - I Am Not My Hair (2006)

** (of four)

I write movie, music and book reviews for a site called Toxic Universe that nobody really goes to but its own writers. So, yeah, I read other people's reviews on there, too, and when I saw the video for India Arie's "I Am Not My Hair," I thought of a TU review written by Bobby Lashley. Who points out that India spends so much time selling her image as someone who doesn't care about image that she sometimes forgets to make good music to go along with it.

"I Am Not My Hair" is a perfect example of anti-image as image. India already devoted half a verse in her debut single "Video" to proclaiming that her brain and her muse both operate independently of her hair, and now she's taking the concept to an extreme. So if anyone's interested in knowing how India has worn her hair from the age of nine on, you should check out this song. Seems like this lady is pretty hung up on the follicular side of things.

Indeed, while frolicking on a white-backdrop soundstage in this Barnaby Roper video, India toys with every piece of fur she finds in the wig closet. We get the "natural" look (a headband obscuring a Statue of Liberty-crown fan of naps), the Lil' Kim stripper weave, the demure Carmen Miranda look complete with giant flower and - most jarringly - the 1982 Joan Jett, "I Hate Myself For Loving You" hoosier rocker look. Me personally, I like the Miranda makeover best while expecting never to see India sport it again. That would be too much of an image to fit the anti-image image.

India is also joined by R+B singer Akon, who has sold his image in a similar one-note fashion. This is the guy who writes songs about being in prison and having to deal with parole officers. I'm a big fan of the ad-libs in his song "Locked Up" - "I been locked up / Cigarettes are currency / Locked up / Wear an orange jumpsuit / Locked up / Jell-O for dessert on Thursday / Locked up / Got a job in the library." These two could keep a psychiatrist busy all week:

INDIA: No, I insist, I really don't care what my hair looks like.
PSYCHIATRIST: You've been saying that for three days straight.
AKON: What about me? I went to jail!
PSYCHIATRIST: We'll get to you in a second, Akon.