By Jeremiah Tucker
JOPLIN, Mo. —
This week features a couple of releases from the first four months of 2012 that I’ve meant to write about and haven’t, for whatever reason.
M.I.A.: “Bad Girls”
I don’t know how popular the pop star M.I.A. is in Joplin. I’m guessing that considering she plays fast and loose with terrorist imagery and flipped off America during the Super Bowl, probably not very. (Although, I’m curious about who exactly is still offended by the middle finger.)
That said, I think Joplin could really get behind the music video for her single “Bad Girls.” I say this because the top five all-time highest grossing movies in the Joplin market, based on my personal observation and anecdotal evidence, includes the 1992 George Strait-starring “Pure Country” at No. 1.
Rounding out the top five are four of the five films that comprise the “The Fast and the Furious” franchise*. (Joplin didn’t support the third entry in the series, “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” viewing it skeptically as “un-American.”)
And if you appreciate car racing and stunt driving, some of the best I’ve ever seen is in the “Bad Girls” video.
The video has no clear narrative, though it appears to take place in an unspecified Middle Eastern country, possibly in the future. Cars spin out in whip-fast circles, kicking up mushroom clouds of dust that permeate the background, mixing with what appears to be oil fires. Behind the wheels of some of the cars are women in traditional Muslim dress who also comprise a large portion of the crowd that line the dirt strip where the cars perform.
The cars are dusty, unremarkable sedans, but there’s a gritty thrill to the way they’re driven with teenage abandon, as if no one cares if they’re totaled as long as it’s in pursuit of pointless spectacle.
Interspersed with the footage is M.I.A. dancing and generally looking cool. The money shot is M.I.A. filing her nails while lounging on the side of a moving car that is being driven on two wheels.
Released a couple months ago, the music video is now ancient in Internet time, having already spawned a dozen memes and a few think pieces about its commentary on the oppression of Saudi Arabian women, who are legally barred from driving.
But if you haven’t seen it, the video is worth watching as a pure visual, even if you have no interest in M.I.A.
* Rounding out the top 10, if you’re curious, are the 1991 Jeff Speakman action vehicle “The Perfect Weapon,” the evangelical Christian football drama “Facing the Giants,” the Luke Perry rodeo romp “8 Seconds,” “Angus” and “Schindler’s List.”
Alex Chilton: “The EMI Song (Smile For Me)”
I’ve written about Big Star plenty in this column over the years. The ignored-in-their-time power pop progenitors are one of my favorite bands of all time.
Earlier this year a compilation was released that featured Alex Chilton’s earliest solo recordings from the time after he left the ’60s blue-eyed soul group The Box Tops but before he founded Big Star’s founders, transitioning into a maverick pop genius.
“Free Again: The ‘1970’ Sessions” is hit and miss, but its one moment of unassailable perfection is the ”The EMI Song (Smile For Me)”, a delicate pop song with one of his best melodies.