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Elton John (#110 of 5)

Music Video: Eminem featuring Rihanna, “The Monster”

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Music Video: Eminem featuring Rihanna, “The Monster”
Music Video: Eminem featuring Rihanna, “The Monster”

In an unorthodox move (but an appropriate one given the network’s largely young, straight male demographic), Eminem premiered the music video for “The Monster,” the fourth single from The Marshall Mathers LP 2 and his fourth collaboration with Rihanna, during ESPN’s countdown to the Baltimore-vs.-Detroit NFL game tonight. Directed by Rich Lee, who was at the helm of the Motor City native’s last video, “Rap God,” the clip was shot in Detroit and finds Em recreating scenes from some of his most iconic videos, including “My Name Is,” “The Way I Am,” and “Lose Yourself.” Rihanna, channeling Whitney Houston circa 1999 with a black bob, charcoal lipstick, and leather bomber jacket, plays Slim Shady’s therapist. At the start of the video, the Bring It On: All or Nothing star pops a tape into a VCR, the TV screen flashing words that ostensibly represent the rapper’s “monsters”: “violence,” “fame,” “addiction,” and so on. Reflection is, of course, a sign of maturity, and there’s one intriguing moment in which a shot of Eminem hugging Elton John during their duet at the Grammys in 2001 is juxtaposed with the lyric, “If one kid out of a hundred million who are going through a struggle feels it and relates, that’s great.” It’s unlikely, however, that this marks the christening of a new alter-ego: Marshall Mathers, LGBT crusader.

Katy Perry Pays Homage to Dangerous Liaisons, Anna Karenina, & The Great Gatsby in “Unconditionally” Music Video

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Katy Perry Pays Homage to Dangerous Liaisons, Anna Karenina, & The Great Gatsby in “Unconditionally” Music Video
Katy Perry Pays Homage to Dangerous Liaisons, Anna Karenina, & The Great Gatsby in “Unconditionally” Music Video

Directed by Aya Tanimura, the understated lyric video for Katy Perry’s “Unconditionally,” the second single from the singer’s fourth album, Prism, is an evocative black-and-white effort that features actress Janell Shirtcliff professing her unconditional love for androgyne Erika Linder. But, perhaps inspired by playing dress-up for the ad campaign for her latest fragrance, “Killer Queen,” Perry clearly had something grander and more mainstream in mind for the track’s official music video, which, in a move that’s almost as retro as the corsets she sports in the clip, she premiered on MTV tonight. Inspired by the 1988 film Dangerous Liaisons and Anna Karenina, the video is ironically free of much in the way of a narrative or coherent period detail. Instead it’s composed of a hodgepodge of imagery—including a flying owl, a burning bed, and some blink-and-you’ll-miss-it homoeroticism—intended to, according to Perry, evoke the “power of love and beauty.” The video was directed by Brent Bonacorso, whose previous credits include Elton John’s recent “Home Again” and lots of slick car commercials—which may explain the inclusion of a Gatsby-esque slow-mo sequence in which Perry ostensibly meets her end.

15 Songs About AIDS

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15 Songs About AIDS
15 Songs About AIDS

Today marks the 32nd anniversary of the first report of the virus that would become known as HIV. In 1998, singer-songwriter Dan Bern released a song called “Cure for AIDS”; there have been countless jokey songs about the disease, including Ween’s “The HIV Song” and “Everyone Has AIDS” from Team America: World Police, but Bern’s seemingly lighthearted track was profound in its idyllic vision of a world free of the disease. Fifteen years later, an end to the epidemic feels like a very real possibility. Nearly 30 million people have reportedly died from AIDS, but each week seems to bring news of another breakthrough in the decades-long quest for a vaccine or cure. We thought this would be a good time to look back at some of the music inspired by the crisis that (eventually) galvanized a generation into action.

Hot Soundtrack: The Great Gatsby

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Hot Soundtrack: The Great Gatsby
Hot Soundtrack: The Great Gatsby

However enticing the movie itself may be, the commercialism of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby has been oppressive, to say the least. We’ve already discussed the film’s preposterous glut of posters (which, for the record, has ballooned even larger since), and if you walk through Manhattan, you’ll see that the movie has caused the Deco gleam of the Chrysler Building to spread out all over, from subway-stair video ads to Brooks Brothers stores, which have devoted full windows and products to the promotion of Gatsby’s 1920’s style. It’s a whole lotta marketing, but one part of it that’s hardly off-putting is the film’s carefully constructed soundtrack, which is brimming with an embarrassment of aural riches, and is easily the most anticipated album of its kind in years.

Executive produced by Jay-Z (who also holds a producing credit for the film), the Gatsby soundtrack seems, on the whole, to be an extraordinary melding of vintage and contemporary sounds, fulfilling Jay-Z and Luhrmann’s goal to “translate Jazz Age sensibilities” into something that can speak to, and enchant, the modern listener. The undertaking is far more involved than one might think, as the hip-hop mogul and the Australian auteur toiled away for two years, nailing down a tone and compiling an illustrious roster of artists, whose styles range from alt-rock to urban, but are all huddled beneath the unifying umbrella of the Roaring Twenties theme.

I’m Not Your Babe: “Alejandro” and the Gaga Narrative

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I’m Not Your Babe: “Alejandro” and the Gaga Narrative
I’m Not Your Babe: “Alejandro” and the Gaga Narrative

Six months ago, in my first piece on Lady Gaga, I asked, “Is this the real her? Have we reached peak Gaga?” Since then, the Lady has continued her conquest of all media, guesting on Oprah and Ellen while taking time to install herself as performance art at the Los Angeles MOCA, right before having an apocalyptic duet with Sir Elton John and jetting off to receive accolades from the Queen of England. Meanwhile, her fans worldwide are responding with tribute videos and performances—everyone from middle school phenoms to the 82nd Airborne Division. She has the most-viewed YouTube video in history and Time Magazine has called her one of the most influential people in the world. Oh yeah, and she has her own comic book. If this isn’t the definition of “peak Gaga,” then I don’t know what is.

But what’s the answer to the first question? What’s the real Gaga? Personal narratives tend to be fascinatingly difficult to unravel; as mainstream sources confront the Gaga narrative looming in front of them, each tries to wrestle with what she really means. In primetime television, Gossip Girl rushed to be the first in line with a performance from The Fame Monster while mumbling something trite about “a satirical commentary on fame, glamour, and our society’s obsession with the shiny new thing.” Glee recently had a more nuanced take, locating Gaga at the intersection of theatricality, identity politics, and personal expression. (They also had the insight to stage an acoustic version of “Poker Face” between a daughter and her estranged mother, giving a whole new meaning to the line, “I won’t tell you that I love you, kiss or hug you.”)