12/07/2005: Damn you, Pete....
Over at A Perfectly Cromulent Blog, Pete Vonder Haar mentioned his nearly emasculating experience with the latest hit by the Black Eyed Peas, "My Humps".
I've had reason to mention the Peas in this space before. Basically, the Black Eyed Peas have, for some reason come to be what I call "a bear", after the schtick by Lewis Black:
It's like if a friend of yours tells you there's a bear wandering around, shitting all over town. You say, "Nah, can't be," but the next day there's the bear, following you around...For some reason, whenever I see/hear a reference to the Peas, then for the next month or so I'm seeing and hearing them everywhere.
And it appears that Pete, by his mention of the Peas, has just started another cycle.
At least this time the first references to the Peas after Pete's have been entertaining. Over at Slate, Hua Hsu has posted an analysis of "My Humps" that I find interesting:
"Taste has no system and no proofs"—this much we know. But some 40 years after the critic Susan Sontag made this and other observations on the good, the bad, and the in-between, the times have a-changed: Irony and camp have recast taste as an ethical shell game and we feel no guilt celebrating things that are, in the parlance of VH1, Awesomely Bad. But are there still songs that qualify as "bad"? Consider the Los Angeles hip-hop quartet the Black Eyed Peas. Their current single, "My Humps," is one of the most popular hit singles in history. It is also proof that a song can be so bad as to veer toward evil.And speaking of the parody videos, check out this masterpiece by a guy with three toy robots, a buttload of D-cells, a video camera, video editing software, and way too much time on his hands.
This is what makes "My Humps" such an inscrutable pop moment. It's not Awesomely Bad; it's Horrifically Bad. The Peas receive no bonus points for a noble missing-of-the-mark or misguided ambition (some of the offended have responded with parody videos and snickering anecdotes about how the group uses Hitler-approved microphones). "My Humps" is a moment that reminds us that categories such as "good" and "bad" still matter. Relativism be damned! There are bad songs that offend our sensibilities but can still be enjoyed, and then there are the songs that are just really bad—transcendentally bad, objectively bad.
As a piece of music, "My Humps" is a stunning assemblage of awful ideas. The song's playful pogo and coke-thin, ring-tone synth line interpolate Sexual Harassment's 1982 left-field electro hit, "I Need A Freak". But where the original trafficked in something icky, sinister, and darkly sexual, the Peas' call-and-response courtship fails to titillate—in fact, it's enough to convince one to never, ever ogle again.
If "My Humps" is the start of another bear cycle, I can only hope the amusement factor continues to remain high. However, if a search of Google video is any indication, that's a forlorn hope. Seems that there's a small but devoted cult of mostly teenaged girls that are producing their own "My Humps" videos and then posting them on the web. Most of them appear to fall into the "silly teen girls making fools of themselves dancing" genre, though there are more "lip-synching heads" videos out there than I'd like to admit (I'll give this one an honorable mention, though, since the girl on the left resembles my own daughter so closely that I did a double take at first).
Len on 12.07.05 @ 06:45 AM CST