Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fashion music: Harajuku girls and Taco

I don't think there's any trend here, but this is my second consecutive post on music and fashion.
I was listening to my ipod and coincidentally, two fashion-themed  songs came up on my playlist consecutively.
The first song was Gwen Stefani's "Harajuku girls".

The song is essentially a tribute to the girls of the Harajuku district in Tokyo.  The area is renown for its unique and eccentric street fashion.

Harajuku also has a large shopping district that includes luxury western designers, Japanese Harajuku native designers, and affordable shops catering to teens.

Gwen Stefani also made Harajuku girls a running theme for her first solo album L.A.M.B.

Japanese girls appear  in just about all the videos released  from the album ("What you waiting for", "Rich girl", "Hollbackgirl") and live shows. Also, in promoting the album, Gwen would show up to interviews with the girls in the background and none of them would utter a word. Gwen would claim not to be able to see the girls.
Because of her use of the Japanese girls,  she attracted some criticism, mainly charges of cultural exploitation. This seems a bit silly to me. I bet most Japanese took the whole Harajuku shtick as a flattering tribute. After all, how many Western artists of her stature prominently feature Japanese themes?
Anyways, if you're fashionista, you'll appreciate that the song name-drops Yohji Yamamoto, the Japanese label Comme des Garcons, and Vivienne Westwood, among others. It also contains a shameless self promotion for her then fledgling brand L.A.M.B:
"Did you see your inspiration in my latest collection?
Just wait 'til you get your little hands on L.A.M.B."

I suppose the song is catchy, but it does contain some pretty awful lyrics:
  • "Where the catwalk got its claws, all you fashion know-it-alls"
  • "You're looking so distinctive like D.N.A., like nothing I've ever seen in the U.S.A"
  • "A Ping-Pong match between eastern and western"
Puttin' on the Ritz

The other song was an old one-hit wonder from the early 80's, called "Puttin' on the Ritz", by Taco.

The original song was written  in 1929 by Irving Berlin in the musical film Puttin' on the Ritz (1930). The original version was actually about black people dressing to the nines in Harlem. It probably stems from the songwriter's familiarity and encounters with black culture (likely from jazz bars). I suppose it wouldn't be considered politically correct by today's standards, but if anything, I think it too is a tribute to the culture.
The lyrics were slightly revised (likely to have a more whitebread appeal) and performed in several movies. It's all about the pretense of dressing Ritzy. I love this dance number by Fred Astaire performing the song. You should watch this clip-- the guy is badass.

The video makes me enjoy the song even more.
I don't care much for the Taco video but I've always found their version to be catchy. The lyrics are also really fun and clever.  I can't think of any better song with which to provide inspiration if you're dressing up for a big event.

-The Scandal

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