Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I Told an Untruth

So, I lied to you, gentle and hypothetical readers. Last night, after I finished my post, I didn't go to bed. I actually just kept watching videos on YouTube, while refreshing my blog in an attempt to GET the post to upload to the internet. Specifically, I kept watching Leona Naess's "Leave Your Boyfriends Behind" over and over and over. Now, I dont actually have any number of boyfriends; I do have a girlfriend, but no desire to leave her behind- in fact, given that we're attending separate graduate schools I'd actually prefer to draw her closer. The music video seems like it could be filmed where I'm living now, and cast entirely by going to the student center. The whole experience is foreign to me because the focus is a group of attractive, happy, dress-wearing women who wear hats and ride bicycles to fun parties where a man has a guitar. I have NO experience with that. I have experience with attractive women (or at least WOMAN- see for reference my mention of a girlfriend above), and I have seen bicycles and dresses and in fact own several hats. But the entire experience presented in the video seems simultaneously completely plausible and completely impossible to me. My college experience didn't include women, in the general sense; it was an all-male school, so women occurred either as professors, girlfriends (and I did NOT have one at that point [where "point" is all but about four months of the four years I was in college {where "four months" is a generous exaggeration that requires a very creative definition of the word "girlfriend"}] or entities which existed during parties on the weekend. They did not ride their bikes there, and they almost never wore dresses; or even took particular effort to dress up.

This video also features a man in a hat, with glasses, spinning a pretty redhead as they dance. The man is somewhat swarthy and has stubble; his crooked trucker's cap is green. I am currently both swarthy and bestubbled; as I am STILL the proud owner of a Mickey's Fine Malt Liquor cap, I feel that I could have been this young man. In fact, as the "young man" in question is quite possibly older than me, it's possible I still could be. That's immaterial to my point, however- and I do have one, or even several!

My point is that I was not this young man in college, and I did not go to parties where well-dressed young people (who had ridden bikes) enjoyed acoustic guitar music and fancy dancing. The parties I attended involved rap music- not hip-hop, mind. The parties I attended involved T-Pain or Lil John suggesting that one thrust toward the window, and then perhaps the wall, until perspiration occurred. I was also not this young man after college; there were no bikes, and social activity seemed to revolve entirely around various bars. I participated in a drinking league, quarterbacking my team to an impressive third-place finish. I played a lot of Big Buck Hunter. I regularly purchased drinks for the various bartenders, because they were my friends. On those occasions where a subset of the bar population including me made their way back to someone's apartment, things were usually so hazy that I'm not sure anyone could have recognized a guitar if it were presented, let alone play them.

I was not this young man, and I did not know this young man. While I knew, and know, many wonderful young women, few of them are the regular dress wearing type, and almost none enjoy hats. Bikes are also not in high demand. Had I not moved to Santa Fe a few weeks ago I would probably have posited that the people featured in this music video simply don't exist- now I realize that they not only exist, they all appear to live here.

But the point I'm attempting to reach, having reached my point about the fellow in the hat, is that despite being completely outside of my experience, the video somehow manages to make me nostalgic. It makes me nostalgic for a young adulthood that I never actually experienced; and furthermore, as someone content to sit at home and type entries for a website, am not attempting to go out and experience. It's nothing that's ever been a part of my life, but as I watch these cheery, oddly dressed people gyrate about an apartment my heart does a little lurch and stumble, and I find myself wistfully thinking "Ah, those were good times."

What's even STRANGER (should I increase the font size for that strange? I've used the word so much I feel like I need to kick things up a notch) is that all of my positive associations with "Leave Your Boyfriends Behind" really have nothing to do with the video. They were set months before I ever saw the video, which I only sought out because work had stopped playing the cd and I suddenly realized I missed the song. In fact, I didn't even register this particular song the first forty or so times I heard it, because Barnes and Noble had it on rotation and I worked there five days a week. An eight hour shift usually meant that you heard any given cd at least four times, but what was strange was how the cds seemed to always play more often than they should. This is to say that I would hear a song, and then when I next heard the song would feel as though I had just heard it. It wasn't a continuous sense of deja vu; I didn't feel as though I was trapped in this torturous, endless loop. I don't even know that I felt that way about songs I particularly liked, or particularly hated. It just...happened.

For me, the hook is a product of two factors. One is Leona's vocal delivery, which manages to be simultaneously wistful and self-satisfied. The way she purrs out the end of each word conveys a certain self-aware regret, particularly in light of lyrics suggesting that she and her friends perpetually defy societal expectations. Those same lyrics celebrate the very lifestyle she recognizes is questionable, and the decisions that quite likely lead to a number of regret-filled mornings. The song's chorus proposes that we all leave our significant others and traipse into the night, where we will consume copious amounts of alcohol and stay up far too late. It's as though she manages to conjure the actual voice that spurred me to go out and drink too much (though, as previously noted, I was leaving no girlfriend behind at the time); the voice that managed to acknowledge the near-certainty of a hangover and an exhausted morning, but somehow turn that into a great idea.

The real killer, though, is the chorus in the latter part of the song, when a steadily increasing number of people sing along with Leona while the music gradually fades away to nothing- just like people join in with a favorite/popular/extant song playing at a bar or party. Although the video conveys this message quite effectively, it's the vocals themselves that really sell the concept. The backup singers aren't in tune, or even unison, but they make up for this with volume and exuberance. If you listen closely at the very end of the song, when the music has fully faded but the chorus continues, some of the signers actually muddle the words! Adjusting magazines in a relatively quiet bookstore, and then hearing what amounts to the 4am close to a packed yet intimate party, was jarring. And, again, I don't even have experiences with the kind of party this represents! I just feel like I do, because of the song.

The only conclusion I can draw from all of this is that Leaona Naess is some sort of dimension-spanning siren, and she manages to recollect an existence that I recognize because some OTHER Seth, in an Elsetime, very much enjoyed it. Is enjoying it. Somewhere, a Seth is twirling a redhead in a dress on his bike in a guitar-playing man's apartment...and all I got was this lousy trucker's hat.

And a girlfriend- I should probably make note of that.

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