Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Perhaps a Lady Really Can Love a Robot

So the AV Club has a column called The Hater, and they recently did a walkthrough of the newest Jamie Foxx single, "Blame It," concluding that "there ain't no party like a Ron Howard party because a Ron Howard party don't stop." This is one of those phrases George Carlin talked about in one of his routines which you just can't conceive hearing or reading, ever. This is because a phrase like that line about a Ron Howard party is so discordant with all our presumptions about how reality works that even though it makes grammatical and semantic sense, it's difficult to understand.

This isn't a post on my worries about Jamie Foxx, who seems to be following the J-Lo path to personal and professional insanity. Foxx toiled in relative obscurity as a comedian, aside from a run on In Living Colour, until his acting career took off thanks to films with Oliver Stone, Will Smith, Tom Cruise, and finally his Oscar-winning performance as Ray Charles. But now that his music career is taking off, he's in danger of becoming a ludicrous, laughable parody of an R&B singer. But I'll let Jamie Foxx control his own destiny. The Soloist looks schmaltzy but good, and next year's Law Abiding Citizen seems promising.

Now watch this video and tell me if you notice anything weird. I mean, aside from Ron Howard monopolizing all the white girls at the party, while all Jake Gyllenhaal can do is talk to the one girl everyone else is ignoring, asking if she's ever seen Donnie Darko.

Jamie Foxx, in terms of his voice in this song, is indistinguishable from T-Pain. They're both so heavily autotuned that they no longer have human voices. They speak as the machine. This is one step above MC Stephen Hawking, and I think this is fascinating. Here we have an R&B ode to drunkenly fooling around with random men and women, sung with the voice of a robot. This is the genre that, more than almost any other theme, focusses on sex, love, articulated with a smooth, organic, human voice. There's something cyberpunky and beautiful about this image of an R&B singer removing all the organic qualities from his own voice. A blood red lighting scheme evokes the visceral, the organic. Sex drips from every scene and movement of the camera – even from Ron Howard. Jamie Foxx is shot in constant closeup, the proximity itself erotic. And he sings with the voice of a machine. This is cybernetic sex, cybernetic liquor, cybernetic R&B, cybernetic Ron Howard.

If you haven't noticed, I still find the Ron Howard thing a little weird.

Think about the traditional boundaries between human and android that this voice breaks down. Whole new vistas of sexuality are spreading open before us, as silicon and carbon unite to create something entirely new. I get the feeling that this has already been done in at least a hundred Japanese animé films, but it's still an intriguing idea.

Although – Ron Howard?

No comments: