Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sound Advice: Hi Fashion & “I’m Not Madonna”

Meet the new dance pop duo Hi Fashion.

Formed by the members Jen DM and Rick Gradone, this duo is a deliciously catty pop machine that may very well be performance art in disguise. Every one of their singles could have been collected from the ruminations of the most attitude-filled, delusional drag queens. A creation called “Amazing” pretty much sums up the entire “I don’t care if you don’t like it because I’m amazing” fantasia that, although could have been mined entirely from a transvestite’s internal monologue, might easily have danced out of any reality TV show’s participant’s mouth, masking a deep-seated insecurity and possible psychosis. (Why else would they agree to be on television, dummy?) It’s the duo’s delirium that sets them apart from any other dance or pop acts.

The band’s videos remind me of old 70s and 80s Japanese commercials, but acted out by gender-bending transvestites in faux Amy Winehouse beehive hairdos and Stevie Nicks’s Goth night outfits. The only proper reaction to any of these videos is the following question: “is this on purpose?” (They also remind me very much of Eurovision and most of Eastern Europe’s ideas of what is supposedly cool.)

But their crowning glory remains the dance club smash “I’m Not Madonna”.

This is a knowing, winking but extremely savvy pop single that trumps any self-referential attempts by the Jersey Shore kids. Why? Because their brand of irony is rooted in a need to self-deprecate that is hampered by the fact that they think they’re being smart. The protagonist in “I’m Not Madonna” has the delusion without the irony, and that makes the entire performance that much more exciting and accomplished. They’re not doing it to seem smarter than they already are, and the hell with anyone with doesn’t like it. It reminds me of what Amy Poehler said to Jimmy Fallon during a rehearsal on SNL, when he told her to stop a gag because he didn’t like it: “I don’t fucking care if you don’t like it!”

Before I discuss this sooner, please listen to their Soundcloud here and then join me after the jump.

Welcome back! Did you enjoy that slice of sonic nirvana?

Is this on purpose?
You’ll likely have noticed that the speaker suffers – although she’d prefer to disagree – from incurable fantasia. She has a level of delusion that Tina Fey would likely compare to “a level usually reserved for popes and drag queens” (have you read Bossypants yet? If not, why not?). It’s rare that you see such a level of delusion without self-awareness translated into song, but this performance hits it squarely on the mark. It’s as if too much hard candy (another Madge reference – everybody drink!) had swept its way into her drug-addled brain and the line between performance and all-consuming belief has blurred.

This is, in other words, quite possibly the funnest, catchiest song on self-delusion since J. Lo tried to make us all believe she was still “Jenny from the Block”. Nice try.

The genius in Hi Fashion’s music is that they create music with character in mind. They do not sing about their own personal feelings and try to add a dance beat to it. They are not using music as catharsis and as a free form of therapy. Screw your feelings. The idea is to create music the way the best poets compose poetry: start with the speaker. Give the speaker an alternative persona or character, separate and apart from yourself, and think to yourself: what would that person say? Then just go with it from there. Hi Fashion understands that some of the worst art comes from internalizing experience and turning pain into song. While that might work for Lady Gaga, not all emotional car wrecks make for good art. Heck, if you visit the “about” page on their website, you don’t get a standard biography, but rather a cheeky interview so insubstantial yet well-assembled that Jerry Seinfeld would be proud. Good for Hi Fashion on making cheeky, fun dance music.

Hi Fashion released their first EP, Sprechen Sie Hi Fashion?, on July 26. For more information, visit the band’s website and also their Facebook page. You should also visit their amazing YouTube channel and the rest of their SoundCloud. And below: a recent performance of “I’m Not Madonna”.