For this week’s TGIF, we have to thank blame acknowledge the contributions of Beyonce and Lady GaGa. Although men taking on female attributes in popular culture is nothing new, men wearing female clothing and making it sexy as a way to make a profit is not. A YouTube sensation was born when Shane Mercado meticuliously recreated the dance routine from the Single Ladies video. Mercado was not performing in drag or as parody, but legitimately as if to say, “anything a girl can do, I can do better.” It would inspire a seemingly infinite number of imitators and parodies (ad nauseum), but would also give exposure to middle America through computers and talk shows, and thus legitimize and inspire, for 15 minutes anyway, the concept of men incorporating traditional female aesthetics… as men. Raising the bar, Lady GaGa, would casually feature a man, dressed in fishnets and heels in a room filled with men, (who didn’t seem to notice or care) in the video for Alejandro. It was done not so much as a gimmick (it was not emphasized or exploited), but rather suggested that men wearing traditionally women clothing can be sexy, a revolutionary concept, that proved we have evolved to such a point in our culture, that such a transgressive statement won’t raise an eyebrow or make a headline. It was only a matter of time when musicians, looking to make their mark on the worldwide web, would incorporate female asethetics, while maintaining their masculinity, thus questioning the legitimacy of such roles, but would do so not in order to make a political statement or change the world, but rather as a marketing strategy to make money. May I introduce to you, heals on guys as sexy commodity, the new hot trend of 2011.
The most successful (virally speaking) is Ukranian?! Kazaky and their video for Love. Kazaky are made up of professional dancers turned boyband, who marry the sexiness of GAGA with Beyonce’s attitude. This hybrid is ultimately more subversive than GaGa and fiercer than Beyonce considering the simple fact that Ukrainians are not known for their tolerant views of homosexuality or transgressive politics (a conservative country where over 80% feel that homosexuality is “never acceptible”) and they unapologetically display it, straight out front and center. The music may not be as commercially viable as their influences, but what they lack in actual musical talent, they more than make up for with balls.
Next up is The Young Professionals, featuring Ivri Lider, one of the biggest-selling contemporary artists from Israel. Their video, D.I.S.C.O. mixes equal parts Robert Palmer with the reincarnation of Freddie Mercury, to create an infectious pop confection that is a whole lot better than it ought to be. It also seems to embrace the “anything a girl can do, I can do better” mentality explored/exploited by Mercado. For you musicphiles out there over a certain age, if the chorus sounds familar, it is actually a sample from the 80s Ottawan’s single of the same name.
Most recently, JbDubs have jumped on the high healing video bandwagon, but add the popular sentiment, especially in these difficult financial times, that feelings of frustration, tedium and loathing come with our everyday work life, in the appropriately titled, I Hate My Job.