Mid-20s Malaise

Struggling against the inevitable since 1986!

Kylie Minogue: Impossible Princess

For my twelfth birthday, I received Kylie Minogue’s Impossible Princess (and The Corrs’ Talk On Corners, but that’s another story). I enjoyed the album for a couple of years, but disavowed all knowledge of it when I discovered rock and roll. I positioned myself as pretty alternative in my teens, and only came back to pop in my twenties. I especially came back to Impossible Princess, which I think is an underrated classic, especially by Minogue’s own fans. It’s a strange avant-pop disc, a mixture of house and trance music, rockabilly and jazz. It was released at an interesting point in Minogue’s career: she left her major label after releasing her fourth album (thereby fulfilling the terms of her contract) and signed with indie label Distortion. She released a self-titled album that included Confide In Me, and accrued a bit of street cred with Where The Wild Roses Grow, her duet with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The single Put Yourself In My Place is pretty indicative of the album’s adult-oriented pop feel.

There are many parallels to be drawn with this career move and Sweden’s Robyn a decade later. Both were teen pop stars in their native countries, with some success abroad; both were written for and produced by professional songwriting teams; both felt like they’d painted themselves into a corner too young. Robyn had recorded a song with electro duo The Knife: she thought it was the future of her music; her label hated it. She started up her own Konichiwa Records, and released a self-titled album to much acclaim. Her label are probably kicking themselves now. Not so Minogue’s former label: Impossible Princess sank, bubbling out a couple of under-performing singles on its way down.

And that’s a real shame. It was a brave move. After having four albums written and produced for her, and co-writing a few songs on one, Minogue took creative control of the Impossible Princess sessions.

The album doesn’t fit in her ouvre at all. This is made especially clear when she performs songs from the album live. Kylie Minogue is a great performer – if you’re into that sort of thing – but the jarring songs from Impossible Princess don’t mix well with her shiny pop show: the desperate sing-speak of Too Far, the stream-of-consciousness mumbling of Say Hey, even the upbeat rockabilly of I Don’t Need Anyone and Some Kind Of Bliss. Nevertheless, Kylie herself obviously has a lot of affection for the album: the songs have made an appearance on every subsequent tour, and she recently mentioned Tears, one of the album’s outtakes, as her own favourite Kylie song.

The album sold poorly, but Kylie – who I think is an excellent businesswoman who knows exactly what she’s selling – turned this into a strength. Without the popular support and budget to put on a large-scale tour, she dubbed the concert series Intimate & Live, performing smaller venues with a stripped-down production. The resulting live album is an interesting record of her career at that point, as it contains dramatic reimaginings of her previous hits: I Should Be So Lucky as a jazzy torch song, Put Yourself In My Place as a folksy ballad, even the recent Did It Again as a country-style stomper.

Well, this has been a bit of a ramble, hasn’t it? I have a lot of affection for this album – I think it’s a classic, really – but can also understand when it doesn’t gel with people. If you’re a fan of Antigone, Roísín Murphy and other artists operating on the fringes of pop music, I suggest you check it out.


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Celebrity Stylists

I’ve been cleaning out my cupboards the last couple of weekends, and today I found a notebook I use to scribble down phone numbers, shopping lists and the like. Before I threw it out, I flicked through it quickly to see if there was any important information in there.

Well, this isn’t important, but it is amusing.

One night a few months ago, some friends and I went out for drinks and dinner in Newtown. We found ourselves following a line of conversation that we found hilarious: imagining what famous bands and singers would name hairdressing and beauty salons if they opened them. The one that started it all was imagining Steve Tyler of Aerosmith, opening a salon called either Aerosnips or Hairosmith. In the morning, I jotted down the ones I could remember.

  • Britney Shears
  • Lady Barber
  • Spray-Z
  • The Artist Formerly Known As Rinse
  • Locks Of Seagulls
  • Mötley Hüe
  • Mariah Hairy
  • Spice Curls
  • Marilyn Handsome
  • Fitney Houston (okay, by this point we were thinking up names for gyms, too)

We amused ourselves greatly. Can you think of any others?

Filed under: silliness

RIP: My boner

So, today is International Women’s Day. Hooray! Women deserve several centuries devoted to celebrating the excellent things they have done, but I suppose a day is a start. Today is for them, and I don’t want to stomp all over them with my male privilege, but for this one comment: WHAT GIVES WITH ALL THE FEMINISM-PHOBIA, LADIES??

I’m really perplexed by it. I was most alarmed when I read this guest post on Mia Freedman’s website a few months ago. Beth Noble, a 24-year-old woman, wrote about how she can cook, but chooses not to. Fair deal.

“I can’t cook a roast and hem a skirt at the same time. But I can manage to have a career, keep a wide circle of friends, travel and study. So maybe the kitchen light doesn’t go on as much as it would have 50 years ago, but that’s why we all moved out of 1955 and into 2011. Power to the Modern Day Women who believe we can have it all.”

Excellent. No problems there. However, she also confusingly states:

“I am not a feminist by anyone’s standards.”

Umm, Beth, you’re a feminist by my standards. It seems Beth misunderstands the term a little (and no surprise there, since she refers to “heels” as “heals” in her blog header). Beth believes that she should be allowed to choose whether to cook or not. She works, travels and studies. Not only that, but she voices her opinion, and believes her words have value, that they should be read.

She’s absolutely right, by all accounts, and that makes her a feminist.

She explains herself by saying:

“Up until I left school, I firmly believed I would get married and raise a family (with a cooked dinner on the table every night). Basically I dreamed of walking in the footsteps of my mother.”

I wonder where she got this idea that feminism and motherhood and marriage are mutually exclusive institutions. Does the idea that the only feminists are hairy-armpitted lesbians still exist? My mother is a feminist: an attractive and intelligent woman, she got married young and went into teaching, before leaving to raise me and my siblings. Since I was a teenager, she’s had a very successful second career as a counselor.

Every step of the way, she exercised choice. She wanted to marry my Dad, and she still wants to be married to him. She wanted to have children. She wanted to go back to work. It’s thanks to feminism that she lives in a world where she can make these choices, or the converse: she could choose to leave my father, she could have chosen to remain childless, or to remain unemployed and live off government benefits. I think a feminist is someone who believes all of these choices and more should be available to women.

I consider myself a feminist, and I hope my mother does too. I should ask her today how she feels about the word “feminism”. I think she’s a wonderful woman who has never been trapped by her gender. I hope she considers herself a feminist. I hope my goddaughter, my sister, and all my younger female cousins, do too. I hope they understand that there’s nothing scary or distasteful about demanding to be treated fairly, and that there’ll always be men like me doing their best to support those demands.

Ladies, you’re the best.

P.S. I wrote this, and then realised I may not have bothered, because in this article, Clementine Ford writes an insightful and hilarious satire of what people seem to think of when they think of feminism.

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A Small Victory

So, Ron Wilson apologised.

“As a journalist my job is to present an issue from different perspectives. If anyone took offence at anything I said during the interview I apologise. I fully support the gay community in its campaign to promote the issue of gay marriage and I congratulate the gay and lesbian community on the success of Mardi Gras.”

And here, boys and girls, we have a study in the difference between “I’m sorry I offended you” and “I’m sorry you’re offended”, which places the fault with the offended party. Still, it’s the best we can hope for: this is the go-to apology for the privileged. Rather than reflect on why their comments were offensive, they issue a blanket apology for hurt feelings and leave it at that.

And I’ll leave it at that, too. I don’t think Ron Wilson is a bad person. I don’t think he’s particularly homophobic. But his comment was out of line, and this instance proves that the queer community has a voice, and that we will use it when we need to. Hopefully, Mr Wilson and other newsreaders will watch their words and use their brains when next handling queer events and issues.

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Our top story tonight, straight white man offended by people who aren’t all those things

Today, my little corner of the internet was atwitter (ha ha, see what I did there?) after newsreader Ron Wilson made offensive comments about the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (a fantastic event that I participated in for the first time over the weekend, but more about that later). Ron Wilson has been a newsreader on Channel Ten for nearly twenty years. I’ve grown up with him in my living room but never given him a second thought, kind of like a bland, distant relative you only see at Christmas time.

Well, today he kicked over the Christmas tree and told his niece that Santa wasn’t real.

Interviewing Mardi Gras co-chair Peter Urmson, called the Mardi Gras disgusting. Watch below.

“Some of the spectacles you’re seeing, I’m assuming would even make you cringe,” he said, helpfully assuming that Mr Urmston shares his sensibilities. Mr Wilson, he is co-chair of the Mardi Gras. Do you think he’d be committing so much of his energy to a venture that made him cringe? “It becomes an exploitation almost of a sexual image rather than trying to explore the diversity of lifestyle,” he continued.

Mr Urmston conceded that “our community is extremely colourful, and we celebrate our diversity through…” before Mr Wilson interrupted, saying, “With respect, there’s a difference between colourful and disgusting.”

Mr Wilson, saying “with respect” doesn’t automatically convey respect, just as pre-empting a racist statement with “I’m not racist, but…” doesn’t mean the statement isn’t racist.

Channel Ten issued a non-apology, pulling the old trick of apologising “if” anyone was offended, not apologising for the intrinsically offensive nature of the comments. “It is not unreasonable for alternative views to be put to organisers,” they said, and this is true. Some people do find Mardi Gras offensive, and if Mr Urmson had been asked what he thought of those people’s viewpoint, it would have been a legitimate question. However, Mr Wilson rudely interjecting in Mr Urmson and using a loaded word like “disgusting” placed a value judgement that has no place in objective reporting.

I called Channel Ten to register my complaints (and the woman at the other end was very polite and pleasant, and deserves some kind of medal for listening to irate viewers while displaying such patience, although Channel Ten, what gives with the crappy lo-fi rip of the Law & Order theme song as your hold music?), and encouraged my Twitter followers to do the same. One comment suggested that this was a case of “a few queens making a mountain out of a molehill again”, and so I stopped to try and look at my reaction objectively.

And do you know what? This isn’t a molehill. Mr Wilson, standing atop the mountain of straight white male privilege, hurled a hurtful boulder down on those of us trying to clamber up the slopes. Perhaps Mr Wilson is clueless rather than hateful, as suggested by his suggestion that the gay community “lets time take care of the gay marriage issue rather than pushing it.”

It’s not particularly insightful to point out, but one imagines that the right to vote wouldn’t have come to African-Americans if they “let time take care of it”.

So maybe he’s clueless, but it’s still worth making noise over that. His thoughtless comments can have a real impact on how people see the gay community and how they treat it. Ten’s Los Angeles correspondent Daniel Sutton found it “interesting that many in the gay community are agreeing with the validity of Ron Wilson’s question”. Several problems there, Daniel, but first up, it was a statement, not a question: “there’s a difference between colourful and disgusting”; “I’m assuming would even make you cringe”; “it becomes an exploitation almost of a sexual image rather than trying to explore the diversity of lifestyle.” Mr Wilson dictated to Mr Urmson, rather than asking an open question and entering into a discussion about mixed attitudes to Mardi Gras within the gay community.

On a tangential note, I’m a little baffled by people who are offended by Mardi Gras. What I loved about it was the inclusive, supportive mood. When my float reached the end of the route, my boyfriend, friends and I doubled back to watch the rest of the parade, and we cheered for everyone: the polyamorists (who I don’t believe posit a healthy model for relationships), the Raelians (who are batshit insane fools a step below Scientologists who believe humans were created by an alien race called the Elohim) and the hardcore bondage enthusiasts (who simply enjoy activities I’d rather not partake in, but thanks for asking). I wouldn’t want to do what these people do, but I was thrilled that they had the right to do it. So who are these people who sit at home, begrudging us that right? Are they jealous of the sexual freedom we enjoy? Are they worried that we will try to gay-rape the world given half the chance?

I don’t know. I don’t know whether to be angry or sad when I encounter those people. But I do know we have to speak up when some douchebag journalist thinks insulting and degrading us is simply “providing balance”.

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