I’m partial to books, newspapers and blogs, so I’m quite fond of the New York Times book blog, Paper Cuts. Despite the fact that I’ve never heard of half the people featured so far in Living With Music (although I loved the way A.M. Homes explained her choices), I’m ridiculously nosy about other people’s music taste. So there I am reading down through Camille Paglia’s 20 choices – which includes lots of classic 60s stuff (The Byrds, Jimi Hendrix), some feministy options (Pamela Stanley, Chaka Khan) when two of her choices hit me like a left jab, followed swiftly by a right hook in the gob: firstly Toni Braxton’s ‘Unbreak My Heart’, only to read on and discover she likes Groove Armada. Could this be a token down-with-the-kids choice (albeit kids about eight years ago), or a bona fide love of downtempo dance with a dash of electronica? She describes them as “an ultra-sophisticated Euro-tech descendant of Giorgio Moroder’s seminal disco collaboration with Donna Summer. Sunshine Anderson… brings introspective intensity to the moody, multi-layered soundscape.” Indeed.
Like her or loathe her, Paglia is a pivotal figure in feminism, particularly in relation to the arts. And yet for all her writing, most people remember Julie Burchill signing off their Battle of the Bitches fax exchange with with the words, “fuck off, you crazy dyke”.
Paglia once said in an interview that her parents played her Bach and Bizet when she was three years old and it had a lasting effect on her – “From the start, I saw music as something that transports you, takes you to another world, and turns off the mind to unleash the emotions.” Well ok, I can relate to that, but does it go some way to explaining the inclusion of Mozzarella-fest ‘Unbreak My Heart’? Hmm. As songs go, it’s corny as all hell, but then Toni Braxton’s gospel wail makes you believe in three minutes that some guy actually dropped a fridge on her heart and she wants it fixed pronto. If the song isn’t melodramatic enough, who can forget the bike crash video? It’s a classic ballad narrative – nudity, perfect make-up and er, a game of Twister. (See also Celine Dion’s ‘Think Twice’, where there’s lots of post-coital standing around wrapped only in a sheet). As for Groove Armada? I just can’t join the dots between a no-nonsense intellectual and a band I’ve seen far too many people dancing monged out to at Festivals.