September 1, 2007

Why I haven't blown up the world yet

It's true: part of the role of woman is to civilize man. Perhaps not directly, as in telling him how to dress -- you should generally not trust girls' advice here -- but indirectly, as in sending the signal that she will not date or marry men who act out violently or behave like barbarians in general. Of course, this assumes that we're not talking about a group where thugs have to fight off eager women with a stick. Among the Yanomamo, for example, the best killers tend to have greater reproductive success. The situation is obviously better in Western continental Europe, where even mild brutishness of the aggressive used car salesman or high school jock type is frowned upon.

We all get the urge to flush the human scum down the toilet, and on those occasions, it's worth having that reminder to keep us from doing so, the woman who would be horrified by a violent rampage. I have two: both Spanish (though one is technically White Mexican-American), introverted, a bit on the weepy side, fragile, songbirds with low voices, and who are rail-thin. The phrase "Madonna-Whore dichotomy" exaggerates the real pattern of male thinking, but these two are on the Madonna side, for lack of a better term.

First is Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star, and who's also recorded a solo album with back-up band The Warm Inventions. She's now 41 and is the perfect antithesis of the self-debasing skanks of pop music who I've written about lately. She's very pretty and had a hit single when she was 27, so if she wanted to, she could have gone the way of Mariah Carey. Instead, she has always kept her sexuality rather private, and she has aged very well because of that. I've written a gagillion posts about her so far, so I'll just include one new video link: "Disappear".

The other is Vega, a Spanish pop star who became really famous the first summer I spent in Barcelona. She has the same graceful qualities that Hope Sandoval does. In particular, she is gorgeous and had a megahit when she was 23, and yet she's never slutted up her lyrics or stage performances in the least. I've posted a lot about her before, but why not fill up the main page here with some of her videos?

The first is a look-back at her time on the show Operacion Triunfo, which is like a mix between American Idol and Big Brother, I guess. It's not subtitled, but you get the idea of what's happening. She says she's weepy and sensitive, a mentor tells her to believe in herself, and so on. It's odd that halfway decent stuff could result from such a show, but here she is:

Next, her performing the brooding stalker's anthem "Every Breath You Take" on the show:

And her megahit "Grita!" (Shout!):

Followed by my favorite, "Una vida contigo" (A life with you):

Here is an acoustic, live version of the above.

"Y llueve" (And it's raining):

She also recorded a cover of Frank Sinatra's "That's Life". Great Spanish accent, and what a lovely laugh!

Urge to kill... fading...


  1. Hope Sandoval wouldn't have gone skanky like Mariah Carey because it would've appeared ridiculous coming from an artist working within her genre. Her female peers didn't go skanky either - that is more typical of female dance pop & hip-hop artists. You're comparing apples & oranges.

    What would be commendable & difficult would be a Britney Spears-Christina Aguilera type singer that managed to be successful & avoid an overly sexual persona (same for female rap artists, although I'd also include its opposite - going over-the-top masculine).

  2. Non-skanky pop stars...well there's Alicia Keys. Compared to her female R&B pop peers she's like an oasis of class. And as a bonus she isn't weepy, frail, or rail-thin (those are pluses in a female musician??). There's Mandy Moore, but she's only moderately successful; much less so than her tarted up counterparts in pop music. Gwen Stefani? She's a hugely successful pop star & just sort of wacky looking but her roots are in ska/alternative which also doesn't condone excessive sexual display.

  3. Alicia Keys looks superfine too. I don't know her well, but if you say she's respectable, then she's got to be 1 in a million.

    Oh, I didn't mean being weepy, frail, and rail-thin were good things for singers necessarily... just pointing out that they share these traits, so there's something deeper going on. And because if I had to define physically attractive, it would definitely not be rail-thin.

    Aren't the Madonna women usually depicted as thin rather than voluptuous? Maybe there's some real pleiotropy at work! Could be that guys prefer more introverted girls for long-term mates but more extraverted "exciting" girls for shorter-term mates. Don't introversion and ectomorphic body type go together? Definitely at an ethnic group level, but dunno about the individual level.

  4. Yeah, Keys was on my mind because I just saw an interview with her where she was talking about how flashy, promiscuous alpha male types common in show biz are "tainted" in her eyes & are totally inappropriate dating material - she seems to have her head screwed on straight.

    I'm guessing she didn't have to go skanky because she's actually talented & a trained pianist who can write her own songs. Come to think of it, most female musicians who play their own intruments & write their own music don't typically go the skanky route. Maybe they're more confident in their ability to keep the attention of fans with their music w/o resorting to T&A?

    re: the introverted, thin Madonnas: this is true, but you sometimes get the opposite, especially in Italian/Latin cinema. The voluptuousness of the good girl Madonna represents her warm, earthy, maternal quality and her extraversion is a sign of her friendliness & warmth towards others (rather than a more self-centered, look at me sort of extraversion).

    I think that in the end, guys prefer women who are not too far off from them on the introvert-extravert scale for the long-term. If you're an extravert, having an introverted wife can lead to alot of friction since you two relate to the world so differently(and your gregariousness & social butterfly tendencies will definitely annoy her at times). But who says introverted girls can't be exciting?! It's always the quiet ones...

  5. That reminds me of something similar I noticed when I was first expanding my musical horizons. Nowadays I can vicariously enjoy misogyny without any kind of cognitive dissonance.

    Some bands that don't have that effect at all: Made Out of Babies, Kill the Man Who Questions, the White Barons, Jack Killed Jill, Zombie Porn. Morning is on the border since Saskia van Heugten does both clean vocals and death grunts. I've been trying to find some of Souad Massi's recordings with Atakor but so far I've only come across her later folk/singer-songwriter stuff and one NWOBHM-type song Atakor made in 2002.

  6. The post about unfortunate transformations was a while back, but I just thought of this. I'm not a fan of Rihana's music either way, but the switch to American-style pseudo-rock on "Shut Up and Drive" just struck me as wrong somehow. I'm not going to say anything positive about Jamaican dancehall, but it simply seems more appropriate. Keep your bad music authentic!

    Another band that doesn't fit into the schema I discussed in the previous post is the BellRays. Part garage-punk, part-soul, 100% great tunes. Whether it gives one an itching for curb-stomping or a love for humanity I can't tell.


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