My Biggest Fan

The Erotic Literary Salon
Time
1315 Sansom Street
January 19, 2010

There were two major reasons why I was nervous that night.

When I finally arrived, I could see that she was already stumbling a bit and having a hard time with life as it stood but was enjoying the sweet simple pleasure of throwing out her cigarette that was smoked way down almost a 1/4 past the filter out onto the curb and into the gutter. As she did this, she mis-stepped a little and gave a sloppy but sexy grimace as the cherry of the smoke rolled down the crook of the sidewalk and into the grated abyss. She had broken her promise again. She was totally hammered.

When she looked up and saw me, walking at my usual city driven pace, she gave me that childish frown of disappointment and frustration that I’ve almost grown accustomed to even after all these years. “I had to take a shit,” I half lied, and she laughed off her grimace expeditiously. Giving me a big, crooked hug, her magnificent peacock feather earrings tickled my neck. Really I was late because I had to run home after a date, and while yes, I did have to S.S.S., really it was picking out the cutest (read:tightest) pair of jeans I could muster for an event like this that took so much time and made me late.

It was an exciting time for us in more than way than one, we hadn’t seen each other in months and it was at this same event that we had seen each other the last time but in a different venue. It was the Erotic Literary Salon, an event I can barely remember who heard of it first, there had been so many of them we had gone to, each of them unmemorable and indelibly etched into our memory.

The salon is a monthly gathering that is much like an open-mic held at a small restaurbar where patrons either partake or listen to original and published works of a lusty persuasion. The salonnière is a free-loving, frilly haired, sweet mouthed wonder. A Hippie basically with some pretty remarkable interests and accolades. She is also a Clinical Sexologist and Educator and created the salon as a place for individuals to express themselves and enjoy the edgy, passionate and romantic stories of others.

Being a book nerd, and yes, someone who has always enjoyed the benefits and charms of a well written erotic story, novel or psychoanalysis, was very open to reading at the very first salon where me and V (we’ll call her) first stepped onto the slippery dais. The place was dripping with irony, everyone was there for a reason and while that reason seemed like a closeted taboo, we were there to revel in it. But the atmosphere was tight that very first night, almost as if a raunchier crowd were expected.

So yes, it was a bunch of bookworms with open minded tastes. It wasn’t a gaggle of sleazy porn mongers. It was kind of disappointing, and kind of discomforting, but it was a motley crew nonetheless and we were all in good company. We still were freaks.

The first night, V read about some pretty intense topics, all personalized stories regarding certain fetishes. I of course wasn’t fazed due to our history together: staying up late, eating chocolate and drinking wine out of a jug, smoking cigarette after cigarette and reading personal ads and dirty books to each other, listening to NIN and Hole. And The Cure of course. We must’ve burned 17,000 candles just from our porn reading.

V is probably the most well-read person I know. Even one of her teachers in high school admitted the same, even more so than himself. It is hard to get her face out of a book. She always has one on her person. She’s let many cigarettes burn out between her fingers just flipping page after page, never stopping. She can dish out syntax in the most elegant and appropriate ways. So it is no wonder then that I marvel over the fact that she is my biggest fan as far as writing is concerned.

I too read some pretty explicit content at the very first salon. But for me, there is this inordinate amount of irreverence that makes my work so less serious. And while I sometimes say things that invoke pity, the black comedy always shines through because to me, funny is sexy.

In the past, V has had issues with getting completely way too fucking hammered. In the last venue, there was more background noise, so it was easier to muffle laughs and inside jokes off to the side, whispering in each others’ ears behind the clinking of glasses. For us, being veterans of dirty talk, it was sometimes hard to bear the “roses” and “sweetness” and “stared into each others’ eyes” that came with some of the readings. We wanted nasty.

It had been a while since I attended a salon with V primarily because I have to take long breaks from her to finally get over her never ending drunk escapades that frighten me emotionally and riddle me with frustration. She is the reckless and unruly Samantha of the group and most times the shenanigans are not only a buzz kill, but coerce sincere concern.

As we walked up the steps, her sexy boots stomping all the way, she asked me about my date and I explained that he was very sweet and nice so I probably won’t be calling him again. She exclaimed, “Well, did you FUCK him!?” just as we made our way into the lounge area where the salon was being held and we were being ssshushed by our gracious (and annoyed) host who had the whole room full of people quiet and at attention. This was the beginning of my night. I was nervous.

I was also a little bit nervous because I had finally finished a piece that was much more personal than work that I usually share. It delved into feelings about my relationship and was much more reality-based than fantasy-based. I remained in the latter in all my other attendance at those salons because I was in a relationship, so I didn’t really talk about sex with my boyfriend, I just made up stories and jokes about my overactive imaginary fantasy life. But this time, it was for real.

Throughout the first half of the session we were treated to an onslaught of PG-13 eroticism, and while I tried my best to remain respectful, V kept at me like we were in high school biology class and we kept cracking up over and over again, making little jokes about the watered down spice level in the house.

As she filled her cup of Diet Coke with more brown stuff from her flask, I knew the night was going to end in mischief and I shook my head in my hand in spite of myself. The librarian in me tried the “shh” tactic a few times but that only made it worse until a full throttle “SHUT UP” came out of my mouth as she gasped, exasperated.

During the break she talked to the hostess and was the loudest person in the room going on and on about how “Everything’s not always roses and candy!”. It was adorable and embarrassing all at once and I didn’t know whether to kiss her or slap her.

Admittedly, I did like some of the readers’ works, even though it wasn’t a lot put out there that I would read on purpose. That was until the second part of the salon.

I was the first to read after “intermission” and it was kind of all of a sudden. V had told me that she was asked to read next and that she would if she were called and she also told me that the hostess had asked if she would be the guest star artist at the next salon. She asked me if I would read with her and do some dialog, and while the idea seemed novel and exciting, I just could bear not having my few months off from another exhausting fiasco like this.

I got up on stage and wondered if my piece was too long. I knew it was good and it didn’t matter, but I really wanted to respect the 5 minute reading limit. Then I thought that once I got reading that no one would want me to stop. I didn’t give any background on the piece like I had originally planned, I thought it would be best just to jump right in.

And that I did.

My story started off racy and funny as usual, getting right to the pith and throwing in plenty of puns and alliteration as possible proving that I am not only a literary genius, but that I am a performer as well. I sucked everyone in with my natural ease of storytelling although I was shaking a bit and talking from my stomach.

V, my biggest fan, laughed profusely, spilling all over the bench seating, and again, she was the loudest one in the room. About 5 minutes into reading, everyone was hooked and wondered how the story was going to end. When I finally got to the dirty part, people laughed more hysterically than ever and I had to keep taking long pauses like I was doing stand-up comedy, which in turn caused people to laugh even more. Must be my funny faces and asides.

When I was done, I curtsied (per usual) and V was in the back row giving me a standing ovation. Finally, something nasty.

After me V read. The hostess had introduced us both as “special” regulars who read frequently at the salon and pointed out that we were the first two to ever read at the original gathering. V told the story of her first performance and how she wanted to create an environment where people were uninhibited and felt as though they could write or say anything, so she basically brought the raunchiest shit she could find.

That evening, she read a delicate yet perverted piece about a true to life experience. It was a tender moment when she read, if there is nothing more that I love than her writing, it is the way she reads. I always loved the way she read my writing. So did she. You could tell. It never sounded so good. I was enamored with the piece she brought that was an excerpt from her blog, and I wish that she would write more. Me too. We’re so good at it.

After us, V got more and more frustrated and more and more loud and kept laughing and leaving in the middle of other people’s readings. I felt horrible. A lot of them were really nervous and were pouring their guts out in front of all these strangers. Thrice people mentioned how hard it was to follow such a great act (me) but they trudged along and tripped over their pseudo sexy sentences.

After a couple of yawns, a cute nerdy Jew woke me up with this awesome little story that read like a murder mystery but he was talking about food and food eroticism. It was this story about a couple who were making dinner together and the way he enunciated it was really fun and very sexy. It was hysterical. Then a young lad read some witty little limericks, one of which I heard before, one of which was an original of his. He did the whole “Once there was a man from Nantucket..” bit. It was a much needed break in the tension.

By the end of the salon, V had totally disappeared and I thought I might be in for another night of dragging her out of a bar and trying to slap her into consciousness. I left that place and her guest who she was with and I tried to get a hold of her to no avail. Since we were only a spit’s distance from the gayborhood, I figured she’d landed a spot in one of the queer places’ finest bar stools and that by now she had a drag queen doing shots with her. I was over it.

I was still running high on the accomplishment of writing a really good, really sexy story. Many came up to me and thanked me and congratulated me and poked me in the back and said “Wow, that was really good, man.” It was great to hear the vague feedback but in reality it was V I wanted praise from. She’s the only one who ever tells me when my work sucks.

Who gives a Graham?

Jeanne Ruddy Dance
Open Studio Showing
Friday, January 8, 2010
Performance Garage
1515 Brandywine Street
6:00pm

Despite the global economic crisis and the constant strain and restraint held on our city’s artistic resources, Philadelphia has maintained the ability to boast a vibrant and expanding dance community. The scene, like most art groups here, has had its ups and downs with larger theaters struggling to make ends meet and smaller, newer theaters barely making it to the infant stages of development. Grants for non-profit 501 (c)(3) organizations are not only far and few between, but the requirements are becoming more demanding and the competition has augmented because of this. While there are tremendous amounts of opportunities for some of the burgeoning dance troupes, the audiences are dwindling and many companies have to rely on touring ventures despite the break-even standard when it comes to financing a traveling show. Independent artists don’t have to rely on the non-profit umbrella as much as years past, but still, dancer’s salaries alone can eat up a grant faster than you can say “5, 6, 7, 8”.

There are a few independent artist who were able to overcome most of the initial hardships that a lot of choreographers and artistic directors are facing. Now they have reputable companies that are technically the juggernauts of the industry but still struggle with keeping their business afloat, being kept alive by the foundation support that is their main source of income.

Jeanne Ruddy is one of those performance makers that is virtually a shoe-in for funding in Philadelphia. Since the inception of her Performance Garage nestled between 15th and 16th street on the now gentrified Brandywine Street just north of Chinatown, Ruddy has managed to oil a machine that cranks out great dance performances and serves as a hub for artistic advancement and achievement. The ex-Graham company member has one of the most successful dance studios/companies in the city.

The renovated garage is a comfortable, arty space with paint scabbed exposed brick walls with a platform Marley dance floor placed in the center of one of the garage areas. Adjacent to that, there is another dance studio, more true to form, with a barre and mirror at the front and Marley dance floor throughout. There is a modern Ikea-ized kitchen and two bathrooms next to that, and the office sits center stage between the dance studio and the larger dance space that sits in the garage area. The huge garage doors have been refinished in a industrial style with expensive looking (teak?) wood, with small windows near the top. The space is carpeted and there are risers on one side of the dance platform. There are also “mirrors” in the space, makeshift mirrors that are mylar-covered boards on wheels that can be placed in front of the dance space to make it more rehearsal friendly. There are a few paintings and dance photographs scattered throughout and the whole place has the feel of a creative workshop.

This evening’s studio showing was a behind-the-scenes look at Ruddy’s newest work, Lark, to be presented during their spring season. We were to be treated to a techniques class demonstration, a talk about the musical creation for the piece, a demonstration of the choreographic process and a showing of a few excerpts from Lark.

Studio showings are becoming commonplace in the dance theater world. Not only to increase revenue to support the work, but it is also a good point of contention when a company is seeking funding. Studio showings are vehicles that address the issue of community outreach. By exposing potential audiences to works-in-progress, the company is engaging them in the artistic process, thus creating a foundation for learning and inclusion.

Not only is this good for marketing and development, studio showings are an important ingredient for a choreographer to manipulate their canvas in order to express their ideas to the fullest extent. By gauging an audience’s reaction and seeing the work performed without any of the dancers’ usual inhibitions during rehearsals, the choreographer can get a feel of the overall picture instead of concentrating on small parts of a work at a time. It can encourage the dance maker to change a certain part or add something new. It’s a valuable learning experience for all.

Many younger choreographers are utilizing this technique to improve their artistic development. Studio showings are the equivalent to a playwright’s staged reading. Even the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival has developed a new program with which to showcase works that are being developed. There is this new philosophy of coercing dialog in order to expand the art outside of its orthodox context.

With Lark, not only is Ruddy working hard at developing new techniques of development, but within the art, she has taken a step out side of her Martha Graham box and has started to work on something very much out of her element while sticking to her roots. Lark is much more free-flowing and patient that some of her previous works.

This may be due to the fact that she worked off of her composer’s cue. Usually she will have an idea and basis for choreography before the music is selected, or she will use music for the idea, but focus more on the choreographic elements. This time, she asked her music composer, Ellen Fishman-Johnson, to develop score for her piece and she was to add the choreography based on what she created.

Fishman-Johnson developed a well-rounded and versatile set using the examination of air and breath as the basis. She used audio recordings of the dancers inhaling and exhaling and added the sampling to live instruments in order to create this harmony of voluntary and involuntary sound movement.

This created a palette for Ruddy to make her dances. Since it was her first time concentrating on musicality, she began with mocking gestures with her dancers. The dancers were asked to walk around each other, exclaiming what it is they liked about their style of dance. During the course of this exercise, Ruddy mentally recorded the movements that the dancers were doing with their hands. She added on more technical phrases and developed the movements for the choreography from there.

She showed us this process during the studio showing but first she showed us a sampling of a Graham technique class. She pointed out many of the body positions and breathing techniques that are utilized. She also had us stand up and instructed us on how to do a balance movement exercise, explaining to us how difficult it is. After the technique exhibition and the choreographic process, she sat down with the musical composer and talked about the process aforementioned.

Then it was on to a preview of the work. The first thing you notice is that much of the dance is not as Graham-like as one might expect. It isn’t as emotional and dramatic as some of the Graham technique that Ruddy has used so many times before. The sporadic nature of the music seems to have rustled Ruddy a little bit, causing her to create less patterns and choreograph more freely. The dancers seemed as though they weren’t really being challenged and a few of them looked bored.

While there was a lot of beauty in the routines and some great partnering, there was a definite lack of passion exuding from the dances. Some of the phrases were noticeably not synchronized, but it gave way to an individuality that is rarely seen in the Graham world. Perhaps because all the spectacle was stripped down and there were no lighting cues and props, the display of dance was watered down and not as inspired. Ruddy is good with exuberance and presentation; this piece doesn’t speak to the business of show as many of her past works have. Still, it is always nice to see someone so in love with the old school break out of their comfort zone and try something new and advanced. You could even see her struggling to grasp on to the future in the silver costumes she conceptualized. A nice leap forward, a big step backward, a fall and a recovery.

In this city we have a tremendous amount of young dancers and choreographers who believe in the power of post modern dance and they refuse to give up on discovering new innovations. The pioneer will never die as long as art is alive, and oh so many deaths it has overcome! While we are all trying to be the next new thing, we cannot deny that our predecessors gave us valuable tools and technique for us to build our own foundations. As much as we hate ballet, we still get all warm and fuzzy when we go to see “Swan Lake” and every time we go to a Graham class, we get all nostalgic and remember why we fell in love in the first place. No matter how far we go, we will always remember and respect where we came from.

I Love the 00s – Part II Music Edition – Music Videos

Music and film are a divine marriage of two of my favorite art forms. Add dance and you have a match made in heaven. When one genre collaborates with another and another, it is a delicate balance of creativity that needs to be juxtaposed in a successful way. Because the opportunities are seemingly endless and there is an infinite amount of possibilities, a visual story can easily go awry if you don’t play your cards right.

With the advent of so many technologies, we can now add even more image architecture to music videos, creating a virtual landscape that can be manipulated innumerably.

It is only natural that I have been dreaming about directing and choreographing music videos for most of my MTV generation life. Sadly, what started as a new global medium for music has turned into a commercialized object of fictitious reality television that lives off the sweet fruit of effective marketing strategies. I knew growing up that it wouldn’t be the most prosperous profession, but what music videos did and said (in my day) meant a lot to the business and could make or break an album. It, in its own right, was advertising.

I’m not here to put down the advertising industry as a whole, it makes the world go round, really. There is an art to it and consumer psychology is a brilliant and interesting science. It all goes back to Warhol’s adage about life imitating art.

I have been fortunate enough to be a part of this video:

It was an easy collaboration between the director, the band, and me. I had met them through a fringe show I produced that they played at. At the time, I was still pseudo involved with the Peekaboo Revue and we were performing monthly shows at the pre-fire shambled Five Spot in Old City. We all agreed on doing something old-timey and Vaudeville inspired. It was no secret that I had a love of Bob Fosse and risqué dance technique. We agreed that it would be bluesy and have dancing girls and sepia tones and the director took it from there. I was pleased with the results and I am so happy with what we put together.

In order to judge my top picks for the past decade, I had to just think of the most memorable videos I have seen lately. I wrote down the first ones that came to mind based on their prevalence. After that, I started thinking more about my favorite artists and then I went browsing. The criteria for this list is concept, choreography (where applicable), direction, editing, story, and art production. All of these videos I have seen in their entirety before I made this list, except the last two which I added based on other lists floating out there. I have to say, if I would have seen them earlier, they would be at the top of my list.

It seems as though this list is dominated by women. It’s not just because of my love for female artists because of their more emotional side, but I think that we all know that women are better at physical presentation than most men, even though directors tend to be male. Here goes:

1. Get Me Bodied (Beyoncé)

I hadn’t seen this video until today. I know, I totally lied and cheated but, I had seen clips of this video a while back and never had the balls to watch it. The thing is, I knew that this was going to be one of those videos that would make me want to off myself because I didn’t think of it first. Of course what I mean by “didn’t think of it first” is that I’m not the one who got to put it out there.

I’ve been kind of obsessed with Ms. Knowles for the past month or two. I’ve been going back and watching her videos and more and more I am seething with envy and inspiration. She too seems to have an unhealthy obsession with Fosse style, and almost all of her videos pay homage to that magic man that left us with so much to work with.

This video is a direct interpretation of this video, a scene from Fosse’s musical comedy, “Sweet Charity”:

She also bites off of that musical/film in another of her videos for “Freakum Dress” where she uses the popular hooker with a heart of gold number “Hey Big Spender”.

In “Get Me Bodied”, from the first wind up of the lipstick in sync with the music to the final booty shake, we are taken through an amazing adaptation of Fosse’s work that would make him want to light up a cigarette during and certainly after the entire experience, shaking his head in a approval along with the beat. What is wonderful about the choreography is that while it is based on a specific work, it is brought into the 21st century with pizazz and modernism that rivals the original version.

Beyoncé plays the muse role with sultry sexiness and voluminous vigor. She looks like she’s having fun. Not only are we treated to this wonderful homage to the man himself, in the video, there is a reprise at the end that montages the current classic style of dance floor moves.

This video is socially and culturally relevant, bringing the past into the future while creating something altogether new. I was shocked and smiling along as she went through the proper procedures with which to correctly dance your ass off while at the club. From the “Uh oh” to “The Tick” to the “Old School” to the “Cool Off”, I was reminded of the moves I am constantly engaging on the dance floor that have inspired my dance vernacular for some time now. In this, she has created an indelible artifact of pop culture.

2. Y Control (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)

Spike Jonze is no stranger to creating masterpieces and lent himself favorably to this band for this video. Having directed the memorable films Being John Malcovich and Adaptaton, (amongst others) he has also created some of the best music videos ever written. Some of my favorites are Buddy Holly by Weezer, “It’s Oh So Quiet” by Bjork and “Sabotage” by Beastie Boys.

There is nothing like the breathless chill that comes from watching something so remarkably jarring and entertaining. This pure avant garde expression can really take its toll on your mind and haunt you for days, like it did me. Dead dogs, creepy vampirism and jaded, ghoulish children round out a well-edited video noir, leading way for Karen O’s no holds barred attitude towards expression reigns supreme here in her relentless signature flailing, creating a rock spectacle that truly represents a perfect culmination of varying talents.

3. Walk Away (Franz Ferdinand)

“Walk Away” is an immaculate presentation of perfection in every facet of this video. Not only is the concept and direction an obvious combination of painstaking chores, but the editing speaks in a quintessential way. The way the pictures are matched with the music is a paragon. While subtly sexy and lambently sad, this montage of emotions not only stands as a beautiful picture on its own, it also goes well with the song. Each and every frame tells the story.

4. Lose Control (Missy Elliot)

This video was a big shock to me when I first saw it. Not only does the beginning start off as compelling and in-your-face as the song, but the entrance of Ciara and the jazzy swing dancing jitterbug action just totally threw me. After such a reminiscent stroll down one of the most influential dance forms America has ever known, I was exhausted. It didn’t make a lot of sense in the context of the song and yes, the modern technology took something away from the authenticity, but there is no doubt that it was fucking awesome. A+ for combining and interpreting the swing dancing and adding stepping and traditional African dance. It read like a tribute to African ancestors abroad and in America.

5. Reptilla – The Strokes

The minimalism of this video really caught my eye. I have seen this attempt at simplicity before but many times it was a botched attempt to focus on the less is more conundrum. This video is all about the music and effectively depicts the visual form of the actual song. The well-placed and well-edited imposed images are a necessary dish of extreme close ups. Simply amazing.

6. Fell in Love with a Girl (White Stripes)

Truly a fantastic and fun video, the use of Lego’s is just extremely creative and lends itself well to the punk driven chord progression and two minute song.

7. Back In Your Head (Tegan & Sara)

For about a month straight I kept hearing this song on NPR. Apparently, Tegan and Sara were the newest, coolest shit, and every hipster should be listening to them. Soon, I was downloading this particular song and listening to it over and over again, singing it loudly in public places and sometimes alone in my room. This song came along at what I guess one could say was the perfect time, where I was struggling with the fear of leaving the one I love for all the wrong reasons. “I’m not unfaithful but I’ll stray” is repeated over and over again throughout, and at a time of ambivalence, it becomes a really hard song to listen to in the company of your lover. Awkward! Anyway, it’s a good song, and of course I love the rest of the lyrics, such as “When I get a little scared, run run run…run…”. One day I decided to youtube the video, and there it was. It was weird, fun, heart wrenching, but made a lot of sense. I was worried at first that I got it so quickly and that there were no really veiled statements in the song. It is obvious to me that the video is speaking to the exact sentiment that plays out in the song and at the end, you always end up back at the beginning. It’s the vicious cycle that we all go through. “I just want back in your head…”. The best song that has ever gotten stuck in my head, and always does, every time.

8. What’s a Girl to do? (Bat for Lashes)

This is another one of those songs I heard on NPR one day and I went to look at the video on my computer. It was so whacky, so dark, so creepy, I loved it. The whole Alice in Wonderland, dreamy feel is marvelous. I immediately related to the whole good nightmare thing, and loved the touch of the boys doing tricks on BMXs. The simple theater craft is delicious. The song and the video haunted me for weeks until I put that inspiration to good use and came up with what is still one of my favorite dance pieces I’ve concocted thus far:

9. Work It (Missy Elliot)

Coming from one of the best albums of the decade that brought hip-hop back to its rightful place, this video melds together the style of the new, influenced by old school jams. Despite the pre-coital bliss inspired lyrics, the video does a good job of paying tribute to pop culture relevant modernism, technology playing its part in this uproarious little ditty. Of special note was all the controversy this video coerced, which is always a sign of good art.

10. Single Ladies (Beyoncé)

In yet another homage to Bob Fosse, Beyoncé manages to put together a clean-cut visual conversation piece, blowing Madonna out the water and solidifying herself as the Diva of the Decade. Stealing just enough inspiration from Fosse’s acclaimed “Mexican Breakfast” dance starring Gwen Verdon, this exhausting and appealing routine will go down as being one of the most iconic music videos of all time.

11. I Need Some Fine Wine, And You Need To Be Nicer (The Cardigans)

It pains me sometimes to think about how most people think of The Cardigans as that one-hit-wonder band that did that fun modern disco song for that Leonardo DiCaprio movie. Well, I do in fact love that song, as fun and happy as it isn’t, but I know better to know that this band is not only a tremendous talent in music, but they have made some of the most memorable music videos I have ever seen.

This video has a socially adept statement of feminism starring the frontwoman who plays the Punk Rock Barbie in the band. In three different montages, she positions herself in three commonly variable sexual objectifications: the hard working secretary who bangs the boss, the glamorous housewife waiting on hand and foot in the household, and the kinky dominatrix in the bed room. She is the Virgin, the Madonna, and the Whore, every man’s fantasy. These caricatures are beautifully filmed and superimposed, allowing every frame to look like a photograph. In the foreground, she plays the woman she wants to be (herself) and takes a stand as the one who really wears the pants. Well done.

12. Hey Ya! (Outkast)

Perhaps the funnest video of the decade, Outkast, like predecessors Missy Elliot, Eminem, and later, Kayne West, took on the challenge of redefining hip-hop while staying true to the deep, dark roots of it. The style of Outkast and all of its eccentricities, fit well into the beginning of the 21st Century, opening up a once famous then infamous art form to a broader audience. This video serves as a statement of peace between hip-hop and its dissenters, using a lost pastime as its vehicle to present the much needed treaty.

13. Conquest – (The White Stripes)

The Album “Icky Thump” gave The White Stripes back its street cred after they (to some) seemed to have sold-out after the success of their vamped up “Get Thee Behind Me Satan”. A few songs on the album rocked harder than they ever did before, returning them to their original grungy luster. Then this gem of a song came along, “Conquest” and took us all by surprise. Jack White is no stranger to experimenting with almost every type of music and with every type of instrument he can get his hands on. This video though, is an awesome work that exemplifies the personality of the band. It is in part a self-exposition, Jack playing out his inner ego, Meg playing out her outer cynic. The video is hilarious and uses CGI in a cheesy, funny way. Not only is the mariachi inspired tune suitable for this Spanish flair, it is by far one of their most interesting songs. The matador theme is something anyone can love due to the bittersweet nature of their heroism, and in a way, he is making a understated jab to the chin of this ancient art, and uses it in a clever way to depict his own hypocrisy.

14. Hung Up (Madonna)

Dance. That’s what it’s all about in this video. Madonna goes back to her origins in this nostalgia laden testimonial of the importance of dance in her life and in American culture. Every dancer has heard “go back to the barre” at least thrice in their careers. There is always the teacher that told you to practice your pliés for the rest of your life, when ever you can, because that is the foundation of movement. Madonna finds her center in this video where she looks hotter than ever and manages to have a topic that is dear to her come out simplified and thoughtful.

15. Juicebox (The Strokes)

You had me at David Cross. All cheeky humor aside, this video is a powerful satire of Y Generation social standards. Technology is the catalyst, the antagonist and the protagonist in the romp through the city with fits of pornography, hedonism and desperation. The degree of desperation device works well, and the cycle all starts back at the beginning in a wonderfully spastic way. The controversial homo eroticism came as a sweet and surprising shock, and caused quite a stir in the media. I guess it was so unsuspecting coming from such a popular rock band, but soon enough, people started to realize that the graphic depiction of two males together in the same video as the glorification of two women being together, was an obvious test of tolerance for the new century. Weird and profound the whole thing together. And still, it was very honest.

16. Sober (Pink)

We all know Pink kicks ass. She makes out with herself in this video! Not only is the whole thing well designed and has some great editing, but she really feels the whole thing and you can literally see the subject matter on the screen.

17. All Nite (Janet Jackson)

Oh, the Super Bowl. What can we say? The Jacksons will be the Jacksons and they have a reputation to uphold. Not only are they one of the most important families in music history, they have made some of the most memorable music videos to date. Janet has a lot to live up to in her own accomplishments, but this video in particular really struck home with me for the amazing choreography. There’s not much to be said about the content or the creativity, but it looks really fucking cool and the dancing is unbelievably good and tight.

18. Caught Up (Usher)

Another selection based solely on choreography, although there is a lot of concept going on in this video, it’s all about the dance. Usher has a wonderful MJ inspired style, but it is all his own and boy does he have stage presence. The whole gangster shenanigans is cool, but really, we all know Usher ain’t no thug. C’mon.

*19. Modern Girl (Sleater-Kinney)

Being an underground indie band, Sleater-Kinney doesn’t put out many music videos but they really should. The creativity of their music would be a wonderful compliment to some visual stylings, but alas, they are not the super stardom type who can afford producers, dancers and fancy technology to make beautiful music films. In this multi-camera’d beast, the simplicity of one of the band’s slower songs really shines. It is a perfect, comfy video that proves that you don’t need all the hodgepodge to make something captivating.

*20. Here It Goes (Ok Go)

I don’t know who the hell these boys are but this video is FUCKING AWESOME!!!!!!

*note: These are videos I stumbled upon today. Happily and gratefully.