Monday, October 02, 2006

[Part Two. You can find Part One here.]

In lieu of everything else that can, should or could be written tonight, I want to proclaim the eternal truths present in that piece of pop confection, Jessica Simpson's "A Public Affair". I keep putting off writing about this song. Indeed, in some ways, perhaps it would be best if I never wrote a piece about it at all, for how else would be best to get at the article of faith at its core: 'Tonight, the world does not exist' ?

The singer seeks a happiness that comes from renunciation, from an escape. This is not a Nietzschean embrace of the world: this is not I have willed all of this, but rather the hopeless grasp for an exception, a halt, a pause, a cessation in time. And so, how joyless Jessica Simpson sounds as she runs through the motions - All night, let's rock, the party don't stop... Catch-phrases spilled out without any real conviction at all. Chanted like a room full of lapsed Catholics would drone the "Our Father".

Interestingly, what makes the exception - what is out of the box - is the public eye. The cameras. Others watching on. This is what can sublimate the banal pain of the daily grind: becoming a spectacle. Thus the magical-sparkle of synthesiser bubbles in the song's opening bars. We are lifting away from the real world.

Nevermind how heavy and laboured that "Holiday"-esque guitar riff sounds.

Regardless of all the contradiction: the implied importance of getting the official green light to have fun, wholly undercut by the denial - who cares...

(Answer? The singer, obviously, much as she attempts to effect euphoria as a panacea for the ache within...)

The song is a most polished, paradoxical mix of the joyful and the joyless. It envisages pleasure that could only come from people and emotions staying away: the central, broken down insistence to her girls: Give me room / To shake, shake, shake... Don't touch me! in other words.

Which puts me in mind of Marcello Carlin's words about Saint Etienne's "Stars Above Us":
even the temporary rooftop relief of "Stars Above Us" is tempered by the knowledge that, 14 years after "Nothing Can Stop Us," the reassuring reflex is now "nothing can touch us." The fear of being touched ("Side Streets" is remarkable; music by Tom Jobim, lyrical plot by "Robert De Niro's Waiting." The not-particularly-hidden deathwish of "Maybe I'll get it tomorrow") means that no one can touch you;


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