Saturday, 28 June 2014

WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT STYLE FROM WHITNEY HOUSTON'S "I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY (WHO LOVES ME)"


A lot of us still miss Whitney. I know I do. She had arguably the most beautiful voice of her generation, she had no problems churning out hit records, and she was a strong, smart, sassy babe—what a dream. There are so many videos of hers I could watch on an endless loop, but today we're going to look at early Whitney, those halcyon days in the 80s. She was a bona fide pop princess: flawless and peppy, just wanting to get down with someone who cared about her.

This video is for the first single from Whitney's second album, Whitney. The track title has the most significant use of parentheses I've ever seen: “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).” I always hear that title in my head as a (possibly drunk) girl in a club exclaiming playfully, “Ahh man I just want to dance with somebody! That's all I want! I'm so low maintenance!” But then she looks to the camera (I'm seeing this on film FYI, one in which the characters talk to camera) with a really serious face and whispers menacingly “But only if they love me.” It's classic Kelly Kapoor.
Another Kelly this video reminds me of is the iconic Kapowski. There's a lot in the way of colored backgrounds, big hair, and embellished denim. Also those weird background things they used to use on shoots a lot in the 80s, the big rectangular fence stands that are completely pointless yet popular for photographing women in front of. Normally there's some sort of geometric neon sign, like this:



Seriously, what is that shit?
Close-up of Whitney's awesome, aforementioned denim embellishment below:
This video tells us a lot about what it was like to be a pop star in the 80s. It's actually a pretty important historical document. Touring back then was bread and butter (oh, err, as it is now). It was hard gig and a lonely life, even when you were facing the kind of elated crowds Whitney attracted:
The use of black and white is so important here: It emphasizes that even though Whitney was in front of her adoring public night after night, it was still just her alone onstage, performing solo beneath the bright lights.
And after the show it was her on her own backstage, leaning against a wall all Jordan Catalano-like, wishing she could dance (with somebody who loved her).
BUT WAIT! She can! Because being a pop star isn't only about touring—it's also about making music videos, which is the most fun thing in the entire WORLD. Here's why:
YOU GET TO HAVE DIFFERENT HAIR
Have fun, go wild, tease that shit! You don't need to worry about how it's going to look the next day or if it's going to get rained on when you're loading out your gear into the tour bus. You can do whatever you want. And in Whitney's case that means super tight curls and big fat bangs.
YOU CAN NEVER WEAR TOO MUCH EYE SHADOW
Eyelids live for color. They crave it. They're desperate for it, and when you don't give it to them they get really sad. Nowadays we're scared of eye shadow. We live in an era of repressed eye shadow use, and it's awful. Soon an underground movement will begin, with more and more people applying copious amounts of glittery powder in the privacy of their own home. There will be secret eye shadow parties were we swap purple for orange with our friends, and smooth on the color way up to our eyebrows, then layer with blues and yellows. It will be a glorious expression of ourselves, and then we will take to the streets in our gorgeous, garish makeup and show everyone what's what. When the revolution knocks at your door, will you answer?
USE THE RAINBOW
Huge door knocker earrings cannot be worn on stage. They might get tangled up in your microphone cable or ripped out accidentally as you play a gnarly riff on your guitar. And while some venues are beautiful and feature brightly colored stage backdrops, most are black. They're definitely not bright blue. Once again: Live Music 0, Music Videos 1. Also, I love that matte lip color.
Plus, you definitely can't have a stage that changes color in a matter of seconds while you perform. Unless you're a really super-duper-famous-sugary-sweet pop star like Bono or something.
Oh hello weird stand thing pretending to be a window! Also: coat racks—vestige of interior decorators past, or still awesome and useful? The debate reigns.


VIDEOS HAVE DANCERS
Yep, they sure do. I think my favorite dancer in this video is either this guy above, who reminds me of Gob Bluth having a sweet-ass time in the only club in the small French town where he's gone skiing, or this one below, who I'm pretty sure is Nick Cave. What a renaissance man.
I love Whitney's stripy nautical co-ord look here:
Seriously, look, it's Nick Cave!
We're all, “Nick Cave why are you in this music video for an 80s pop star?” and he's all, “Hey, whatever!”
I like this dance move below the most. You can only do it if you're wearing a suit that's three times too big for you.


YOU CAN DO THE CLASSIC 80S CHANGING ROOM SHOT
All they need to do is emerge from their respective chambers wearing something they're not 100 percent sure about, and it'll be like we've invented a time machine and have gone back to1987.
JOB DONE. Also I like that Nick Cave is doing his, “Grrr ROCK” face.
YOU CAN DO GRAFFITI
If you did graffiti on the back wall of a stage you were going to play you'd have several issues. First off the venue probably wouldn't let you do it, secondly you'd have the smell of paint fumes while you played, which would cause a really bad headache, and, finally, when you were rocking out you might accidentally rub up against the not-quite-dry-yet paint and ruin your best leather jacket and stonewashed mom jeans. But in a video you can do whatever you want! So go right ahead and spraypaint “Get Down” onto a fake fence. Worried it's dumb? That your fans won't like it? What are they going to do? Heckle? OH NO THEY CAN'T BECAUSE THIS IS A VIDEO.
WEAR A BRIGHT ORANGE DRESS AND MAKE IT RAIN (CONFETTI)
Nowadays it's pretty rare to be allowed to have confetti—even at a wedding. It's a nightmare to clean up, and pigeons eat it and die or something, so it's basically extinct. But videos are all about being controversial and pushing boundaries, so of course you can have confetti flutter down on you if that's what you want!
Oh, and this is the orange dress in full. I love it.
HAVE HAIR AND COSTUME CHANGES IN A MATTER OF SECONDS
You can have costume changes during a live show, but you either have to leave the stage or opt for onstage distraction tactics while you shimmy into something else. And you definitely can't have hair changes—unless it's pulling off your wig. No option is really as good as being able to have a completely different look from one second to the next. I'm a big fan of Whitney's floppy leopard print hair scarf and short curls. She doesn't give a rat's ass about what rider she's got backstage or if that writer from hip 80s music magazine Poptastic Fantastic Neon Geometric Shape Useless Stand Thing has turned up to review the show.
YOU CAN DANCE ON YOUR OWN FACE
Whitney does it in a green body con dress. How do you do it?

SPEAKING OF BODY CON DRESSES…
As an 80s child, I had a swimsuit made out of this material. It was that stuff that stretched more than Stretch Armstrong, so your clothes looked tiny on the hanger but fit when you put them on. I was still wearing that swimsuit when I was 16 and went on my first beach trip with my friends. They told me it was gross.
And, yes, before you ask, those are dancing ghost feet prancing next to Whitney's gorgeous paint-splashed shoes. Close-up of those babies below:
YOU CAN USE THE HEIGHT OF FILM EDITING TECHNOLOGY
In 1987 it didn't get any more exciting than being able to dance in a roll of film, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a LOSER.
YOU GET A HAPPY ENDING
The video ends with the blissful scene of Whitney driving up to her glamorous hotel, getting out of her sleek black car, and noticing some very cool men dancing into a nearby club. She smiles, shrugs, drops her bag and bounds over to them, full of joy. It's a perfect moment and one that never ever happens when you're touring in real life. You're more likely to be in the tour van nurturing your tinnitus, eating stale chips, and watching a Louis CK stand up DVD for the 18th time.
But in the right world, the perfect world, we dance with somebody forever. Somebody who loves us. I love you, Whitney.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON NOISEY

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