Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dancing On The Floor

It’s a blue, bright blue, Saturday, hey hey.

Bob’s post yesterday about Danceworld led me to thoughts of Goldfrapp.

I’m an alien to this place called Danceworld. Modern dance and I are vinegar and water. Between opera and modern dance, I probably feel more ignorant and clueless in modern dance, because opera carries this sense of being from a different historical era, so it makes sense that I wouldn’t get it. Modern dance feels, well, modern. Which means we moderners -- especially those who appreciate art and creativity and dancing -- should have a better sense of it than we do.

Yet here I am, an illegal alien in Danceworld.

This thought led me to Goldfrapp’s video for A&E, easily one of my favorite songs of the past decade.

And the pain has started to slip away, hey hey.

The video seems to me a perfect example of what Bob talks of in Danceworld: What happens in the video has almost nothing to do with the subject matter of the song, yet somehow the underlying emotion and feeling of the song is very much being communicated. It’s one of the more haunting videos I’ve run across in a while.



I’m in a backless dress in a pastel ward that’s shining.

I’ve put this song on a lot of mixes in the past few years. In fact, it’s fair to say that if you’ve received a mix CD from me in the past two years, there’s a 95% chance this song has been on one. And this song has come up in conversations after the fact on several occasions, far more than most of the songs I’ve included. I can think of four people who have said something like, “That Goldfrapp song is really mesmerizing/beautiful/memorable.” And I will nod and enthusiastically agree.

And then I ruin it for them.

“You know what it’s about, right?” I ask.

I think I want you still, but it may be pills at work.

“The narrator is in the hospital after a botched suicide attempt,” I say.

“What? I'm not sure that's what it's about.”

“Oh yes. It definitely is. She’s either in the ER or the psych ward, but she’s definitely in the hospital. And it’s definitely because of an overdose.”

“I thought it was just a break-up song.”

“It IS. And it's a love song, too! That’s what makes it so freaky and haunting and beautiful!”

Do you really wanna know how I was dancing on the floor?
I was trying to phone you when I’m crawling out the door
I’m amazed at you, the things you say that you don’t do
Why don’t you ring?

Apparently, the song was inspired by an experience Allison Goldfrapp had in the A&E -- the UK’s version of the “ER” -- but I’m comfortable betting that she’s far closer emotionally to this song than a mere visit to the emergency room. This song feels, to me, like it could only be written a safe distance away from an intensely-connected past event, and she’s in a place where she can look back on her more intense and passionate and lost and foolish self and think, “You were royally screwed up, but my God you were beautiful.”

There might be a fine line here, but I don’t think she’s wishing she had succeeded in her suicide attempt. Rather, I think there’s something about that past version of herself she remembers and loves in spite of her near-fatal flaws. And what has to be the best line becomes the translation of post-overdose convulsions to "dancing on the floor."

And the pain has started to slip away, hey hey.

It’s a love song to her old self, a self better left in the past, but necessarily remembered. That I finished Jennifer Egan’s mesmerizing Letters from the Goon Squad, a novel that won roughly a bajillion awards including the Pulitzer Prize at the same time I'm rekindling my love for this song is perfect serendipity, because the song reminds me of Sasha, the main female character around whom the novel flows.

But that’s for another day. Back to the video.

No matter how beautiful I find this song, the video had to come from a different place. A concert video wouldn’t work, nor would some attempt to literally translate the song for the viewer, because it would freak people out in the wrong way entirely.

So you turn to some dreamy, psychadelic modern dance in the woods. Goldfrapp becomes some fairy tale character in white, surrounded by dancing leaves and trees who eventually break up their synchronized routine to go their own expressive invidual ways while she loses her mind. Then they return to settle her back down into her dreamy slumber. Then it all becomes some vision or dream of Goldfrapp’s other member, who’s out on his own camping.

But early on, when she stands in the center of four "leaf-dancers" in the shape of the cross and takes herself a nice little crucifictitious pose... wow.

A&E - Goldfrapp (mp3)

Totally freaky. Totally weird. Totally Goldfrapp. And a perfect match for a song few people seem to like more once they know what it’s about.

1 comment:

Bob said...

I've continued to dig that song, even after you told me what it was about.