Monday, September 11, 2006

DEM BOYZ PT. 2



      I love these guys. I wrote about them when I first started blogging (see the Feb. 19, 2006 post titled You Tube: That Good Good), back when You Tube was just exploding. They were already huge stars of that cyber cultural clearinghouse. What makes me smile is just how many cultural and identity grenades they detonate just by being their goofy selves. They slyly explode assorted Asian stereotypes (those perpetuated by both American and various Asian medias) by diving right into them and then pushing beyond; check their bugged eyes and exaggerated facial expressions, the way they simultaneously embrace and send up the fused geek / male eunuch / passive female / pop culture junkie, all sans angst or didacticism. Watch enough of their clips and you see that they flip gender like seasoned performance artists, essaying feminine roles in a way that vaguely recalls the Kids in the Hall’s roster of female characters, where humor isn’t mined from misogyny or mean-spiritedness but from genuine affection, a sharp eye for gendered details. As unabashed fans of pop music, they don’t quiver at the feminine sway of the stuff. They embrace it, it’s silliness and its uplift. They’re not snobs.
      These guys (both the duo in center frame and, I would imagine, the wholly indifferent kid who’s always in the back, deeply engrossed in computer games) love popular music, both Asian and American, across genre – and not in any sort of ironic or post anything sort of way. They give themselves over to it without shame or intellectual distance, though there’s a lot of smart, tongue-in-cheek humor in their camera savvy, ready-for-my-close-up home videos. The Jessica Simpson single they’re interpreting here has been shredded by most music critics. (An aside: Some weeks ago, I caught a ride with a “homo-thug” LA gay rapper who nearly broke a finger turning up his radio’s volume when the single came on. “I love this,” he grinned. “This the kinda shit Janet need to still be doin.’” He happily bopped along to the music and I couldn’t resist clowning him: “You do shatter the stereotypes, don’t you?”) Although it’s not one of the songs produced by Jam & Lewis on Simpson’s new album, it has the sound and feel of a low grade knock-off of vintage (pop) Janet, maybe combined with some of the more sterile, generic pop of the ‘80s. And as with the new Janet and Beyonce singles, the public reaction has been to issue a collective yawn and to toss it on the garbage heap. And deservedly so. But these guys gleefully recycle the refuse. Look closely and you’ll see that they catch and perform every giggle, every background sigh or layered vocal tic. And when they exaggeratedly mouth along to the lifted “ahhhhhh ahhhhhh ahhhhh ahhh” from Diana Ross’ “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” they situate themselves in a nearly five-decades deep legacy of insane drag queens at the mic.

1 comment:

Larry-bob said...

Apparently they have a Chinese-language blog:
http://blog.sina.com.cn/m/housheboy
Check out the photos of them in their graduation robes on page 2 or so...
They were apparently sculpture majors, according to the wikipedia article:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Back_Dorm_Boys