Thursday, 4 September 2014

Iggy Azalea and the Clueless Question

"I'm so fancy, you already know, I'm in the fast lane, from L.A. to Tokyo..." Fancy by Iggy Azalea et al.

You will have heard the song, you might have watched the video, but how many of you highly intelligent readers (take the compliment) wondered at the brazen deja vu effect of 2014's trendiest pop music hit?

The answer will be a lot clearer to those from a particular generation, specifically that of the mid-1990s. Nineteen years after its initial release, Clueless, the tale of a Beverley Hills brat loosely based on Jane Austen's Emma, has been given a new lease of life in contemporary culture through the painstaking shot-by-shot recreation of its visual identity in the Fancy music video. With the costumes even serving as identical fits, you might be forgiven for thinking the tune were part of the official soundtrack.

If you have not already seen the critically-acclaimed film I advise you to do so. At the time of its creation the portrayal of wealthy Californian image-driven divas was both topical and sooo original. Like, totally!

Amongst other accolades, it sparked Paul Rudd's rise to prominence and inspired a flurry of lesser teen films after the genre had suffered a decline following its 1980s heyday. But considering Amy Heckerling's movie is nearly two decades old, it seems an odd choice to connect with the fashion-obsessed immediacy of the modern pop charts. Nevertheless, the decision goes a long way towards highlighting the new common ground across the entertainment business.

A promotional video to glamorise, even dramatise, a new release is a strategy shared by both the music and film industry. These trailers typically last less than four minutes and try to hook their prospective audience with the same advertising ploys, almost always combining visual and audio stimuli in their pandering to us hungry cultural consumers.

By making reference to Clueless so openly, the production team behind Fancy are effectively associating themselves with a rival piece of entertainment. But perhaps this is to their mutual benefit. Igniting the memory of a seemingly forgotten film will inspire nostalgia in those old enough and, in return, the musician presents their work as a classy, established and prestigious product. The situation is almost like a direct merchandising tie-in. Both benefit financially from each other's reputed credibility within a certain market of fans.

More importantly, the themes of the song match the ironic lampooning of teenage 'plastics' which were later reiterated in their full monstrous beauty by Tina Fey's incredibly witty Mean Girls (no doubt partly inspired by its 1995 predecessor). Rather than relate to a John Hughes chick-flick, the video directors are deliberately, although somewhat mischievously, latching onto Clueless' sardonic tone.

And yet, nobody seems to have noticed the consequent irony caused by making a music video which pays tribute to an unmistakably biting satire of the MTV generation. Judging by the 250 million views on Youtube, the pop community does not appear to have made that insight. Or maybe they just don't care.

In a recent interview Iggy Azalea (AKA Amethyst Amelia Kelly) said of her video, "Growing up, Clueless to me was that stereotypical L.A. Valley Girl movie, and it was very hard for me as a kid to know what was real and what wasn't real. 'Is that really how people in L.A. dress? Do they really all talk like that?' The line was very blurred, I really wasn't sure. I wanted to do something unexpected, but still very L.A. and West Coast as a tribute to, sonically, how it sounds."

So, on those terms, the rhythm and lyrics were the key factors in dreaming up the aesthetic vibe of the video. Does this mean that we might see more film-related music videos in future where, as Iggy says, "sonically" appropriate ? Perhaps a world-weary rock group might take on Apocalypse Now? Or how about Adele singing with a piano to a 12 Angry Men pastiche?

Even if it does not harken the emergence of a new trend, Fancy is an intriguing case of entertainment cross-over, even more so than the appearance of Madonna in the otherwise decent Shadows and Fog. If you have not seen the polished homage before now, take a look below.


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