Thursday, March 27, 2008

stream of consciousness discoveries

Sarkozy's visit to the UK monopolises the front pages of all newspapers today (the tabloid version of today's Independent screams 'Iraq implodes as Shia fight Shia', but offers us a view of Carla Bruni's legs as its cover photograph; shame on them). Anyway, in an idle moment of listening to the French national anthem, marvelling at its grandeur, and wondering what other national anthems were as 'grand', I looked up the Soviet national anthem at the suggestion of verbalprivilege. And went into a state of shock. Because I was essentially listening to Pet Shop Boys' Go West. As a kid who (uncharacteristically) knew all the lyrics to this song, I had no sense of its complexity and multilayeredness. And watching the video now again after all these years, I'm not sure whether it is a case of straightforward Cold War propaganda as the words suggest (Go West, life is peaceful there, etc.), with the deeply ironic twist of being sung to basically the same tune as the Soviet national anthem. Or whether it is positing some sort of dialectical resolution of the contradiction between capitalism and communism, with all that Soviet iconography (red stars and gymnasts marching in formation) in New York, with the irony being turned in equal measure against the US: in this America, the Statue of Liberty is black, for crying out loud (which she does). And maybe, because the band is gay, Go West (like 'Go west, young man') is an exhoration to gay men to leave the rest of the US and go to California, bastion of gay liberation. The Wikipedia entry, which I swear I didn't read till this point in the blog post, suggests an additional layer: the spectre of AIDS hanging over the song, with the teams of gymnasts ascending the stairs towards their queer utopia signifying the huge numbers of young men dying of AIDS. I have been sleepwalking through life.

Comments:
another reason to be annoyed with the Independent today--the quotation marks around the word 'man' in this headline:
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-wellbeing/health-news/married-man-claims-to-be-five-months-pregnant-801331.html

queer utopia: still a long way off.
 
wow. you're right. i always thought the song was a bit strange. btw, you know that the pet shop boys ran into a very serious plagiarism controversy soon afterwards?

btw, you've probably heard the south african national anthem which i've always found quite inspirational. and the italian one is quite nice too.
 
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