Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Pop Politics: Gwen Stefani in Verona, NY

Finding a family friendly experience that parents and children alike can enjoy is an activity far reaching in American history. The urgency of finding mutually stimulating events is underlined by today’s political climate, which stresses family values and deems other segments of the citizenry amoral and overly sexual. When these two sides meet, however, the divisions seem to melt away and what remains is a perverse and troubled American people.

The Gwen Stefani concert in the Turning Stone Casino’s Event Center on December 14 was a perfect example of the blurring of family values and American pop music culture. The latter is characterized as the base, MTV-type display that the family-centric abhor, and indeed the scene in the Events Center played out like a video club scene rather than a camp fire sing-along. The opening act, Ciara, spit out a few notes over highly processed, pre-recorded music, while bumping and grinding with her male and female dancing counterparts. Gaps made by wardrobe changes were filled with radio hits like the Black Eyed Peas’ “My Hump,” while conversation with the audience explicitly used party slang: “My right side is crunk. Is my left side crunk?” said Ciara to rile the crowd.

Undoubtedly no parent wants their nine-year-old daughter to use her hump or get crunk anywhere at anytime; however, the audience was filled to the brim with young girls, parents and some questionable older male singles. During an exceptionally drawn out, hour long intermission between Ciara and Stefani, two elementary-aged girls ran down to the side of the stage and began flailing their bodies around to some modern records the DJ was spinning. This pleased the crowd as they cheered and encouraged the girls, causing a few more young ladies to join them. Obviously the girls were emulating what they saw onstage and the acceptability came not only from the audience’s encouragement, but by the American public as a whole. Ciara and her image are up for four Grammy’s this year.

Stefani finally reached the stage around 10 p.m., rising from below onto a platform, dressed in a provocative queen’s outfit. The costume changes mirrored Ciara’s performance; there were many variations on a theme, none of which involved covering more than the necessary body parts. Her songs routinely involved sexual innuendos like “crash into me real hard,” and references to material wealth like “if I was rich girl.” These are not necessarily the values that family oriented people wish to instill in their children, but they are perfectly in line with the cultural values of today’s younger generations. Stefani regarded future generations, which also happens to be her biggest fan base: “{Imagine} what it’s like to be me and have all these girls support me for all these years.” She even invited a few girls onstage during the encore.

To her credit Stefani brought a real band on tour with her, and, though strained, she sang all her own vocals. It is still a shame that Stefani gave up a lucrative career in a decent band, No Doubt, to play a bigger role in the mire that is pop music culture. It is capable of sucking us all in and our belief system is little defense for the pull of celebrity.


Blogger Kalin Moon said...

Right on. I had a good friend who attended the concert and said the same thing, in less words and insight, but more the less the same thing.

Keep writing Julie. Awsome...

9:26 PM  
Blogger Kalin Moon said...

Julie -

Right on with this one. A dear friend of mine attended the concert and said the same thing. Of course with less words and insight.

Keep up the great work!

9:27 PM  
Blogger Kalin Moon said...

sorry about the two posts...now three. I am new to this. :)

9:27 PM  

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