Now on HuffingtonPost.com: "Window Seat" or Much Badu About Nothing

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Around the internet, folks have been buzzing about Erykah Badu's
latest video "Window Seat," in which the singer strips naked as she
strolls through downtown Dallas. And the reviews, from what I've seen,
have been mostly positive, with many people praising Badu for her
bravery.

It was riveting to see this black woman's progress down a Dallas
street. The gauzy, Zapruder-style filmmaking gave it a languid,
dreamlike quality that had the effect of transporting me. Honestly, I,
too, wanted to see if she'd go all the way. I wasn't titillated, I was
just aware that she was approaching a societal line. Would she actually
cross it? My hat's off to her because, seriously, you're not getting
me to walk naked down anybody's street.

But then again, I don't have a new album to sell.

We are asked to take this video very seriously. But what's it really
about? Is it about freedom of expression? Stripping away pretense? A
wake-up call for each of us to be ourselves? Fine. But why the
conflation with Kennedy? Because Erykah sees herself on that level.
JFK. Badu. Y'all get the connection, right? I don't. When you look at
the Matt and Kim video that inspired "Window Seat," you
can see that it was fun. They were really trying to see how long they
could go before the cops showed up. As is often the case, it's tough to
make a message video and do great art, and it's usually the art that
suffers.

Erykah tweeted: "funny thing is, the physical
nudity is nothing lol . i been naked all along in my words actions and
deeds . thats the real vulnerable place".

So there was no real risk for Erykah. And if she's not risking
anything emotionally, physically or artistically, then what are we
applauding? Holla atcha boy after
you rip up the picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live.

Read the rest on The HuffingtonPost.com.

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5 Responses to “Now on HuffingtonPost.com: "Window Seat" or Much Badu About Nothing” Subscribe

  1. ayinde April 2, 2010 at 18:13 #

    yeah you know I forgot about that Shinead vs the pope thing. that was balls! like no other. and she still pays for it. well said

  2. Daniela Capistrano April 2, 2010 at 18:23 #

    I didn’t read it as Badu comparing herself to Kennedy (seeing herself on the same plane). For me, it was about context.

    The theme was about assassination – physical, emotional, character, etc.

    We risk being “assassinated” when we stand out from the crowd, stand our ground on issues – break away from societal norms and behave “differently.” I think that the Kennedy association was just to make it more relatable – he’s an easily identifiable icon as is the history around what happened to him.

    Badu is standing up for freedom of expression, which we like to think we all execute on a daily basis but we don’t. We are constantly compromising our voice, our identity, in some fashion to keep a job, a lover, a friend, etc. In the video, Badu says “fuck it” and just strips everything away – all pretense, all flash, to just be skin. And for one glorious moment, she is just One.

    … Then of course, she is shot. She dies. Which I don’t think is meant to be read as a cautionary tale. She’s not saying “don’t be yourself” she is saying “look what WE do to people when they free themselves. Look what we’ve become.”

    I think her message is particularly valid right now, when people are so quick to pass on misinformation without bothering to process anything on their own, we’re like RTing anything that is vaguely interesting with only a shallow understanding of the topic.

    All this information doesn’t make us smarter. It makes us more scattered, less patient and less willing to do any of our own research.

    Badu is calling people out to “look at what we’ve become.” I don’t think she’s asking us to consider her video groundbreaking, but there was definitely an element of risk involved in her making this video. She physically made herself vulnerable, risked scathing reviews, attacks, etc. In our TMZ’d world that may seem like nothing but imagine if people were attacking and judging you. She may be a famous singer but she’s also just a woman who is still learning more about the world around her and sharing her ideas.

    All this to say, I liked the video and I’m glad she made it. Frankly, I thought your reference to the whole “rip up the picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live” was unwarranted and not relatable. That may have been shocking and risky on some levels but had Sinead been a black woman I doubt she would still have a career right now.

  3. Rob Fields April 2, 2010 at 22:29 #

    Daniela,

    I hear you. The reference to Sinead O’Connor was an example of someone who did something really risky and ballsy. She took a huge amount of heat for that. Here was a Catholic woman ripping up a photo of the Pope. THAT was brave.

    Sorry, but after she’s copped to as much, I don’t believe that Erykah was risking much at all.

  4. Stevewnyc April 3, 2010 at 12:32 #

    rob – just a couple random reactions/thoughts…

    the original matt & kim video was pretty visually powerful, as was erykah’s. sadly, i don’t feel any connection between the video and the song, in substance or tone. so, i’ve watched it a few times on mute and it makes more sense as a statement unto itself. it feels very self-aware and kind of heavy-handed, but what performance art doesn’t? the jfk connection isn’t subtle, and i imagine if she could’ve flown to jerusalem to walk the stages of the cross, she might have.

    conceptually, it touches on a public/private existential liminality thing that reminds me of the radiohead “just” video, where a man decides one day to just lay on a sidewalk, and provokes resistance first from his peers (the community), and then the authorities (the state), kind of playing with the notions of challenging societal norms and constructed authority by just ‘being’ in public space. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5X7HKxpiQA)

    anyway, although i love the raw concept of the video, whether M&K’s or EB’s version, i particularly like the ‘rebirth’ image at the end of Erykah’s video, where she kind of re-emerges as a nubian goddess. what a smile…

    also of interest to me is that both vids are going for a handheld/super-8/lo-fi DIY thing, but both resort to very seemless production-intensive ‘modern’ editing techniques. notice how nobody in the erykah video even looks at her? my sense is the entire thing is composited. in both cases, it seems a disservice to the aesthetic project to execute it with slick editing. that’s just me being picky though.

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