music, popular culture

My Fav Versions of I Will Survive.

The other night I took some time to watch the classic 1994 camp film ‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ with one of my favourite songs portrayed in the scene below.

Like I have noted before, the best way for me personally to get a song stuck in my head is to do some more investigation into pop music history. (And play the song over and over until I get bored or the neighbours will threaten me with an eviction.)

The original song performed by the legendary Gloria Gaynor (above) has been covered by many in the duration of the past 40 years. Thanks to the compilation video I found (below), I don’t have to post all of the different versions here.

We even have our own cover version in Finnish called ‘Oon voimissain’, published a year after the international version. Originally performed by Virve ‘Vicky’ Rosti in 1979, the translated lyrics and strong vocals pretty much sums up the original story (only in the Finnish context).

The Finnish lyrics asks if the man who dumped her ‘can’t remember how you left laughing?’ and how she ‘gathered all of her strength in order not to die’ out of the initial shock and heart break that his sudden departure caused her to go through.

Notice the way in the performance (video below) how the more the ex-in-a-suit removes his belongings around her, the more emancipated she becomes with the newly gained space around her. This woman grows from the experience of having to passively watch from the side how her loved one packs and leaves into owning her own space with dancing and being to sit on her own chair.

The end result is rather victorious; if he doesn’t voluntarily drop the intentions of getting back together and leave, she is even ready and willing to throw him ‘out into the cold winter freeze’ (which in Finland is actually a relatively horrifying scenario). Way to go, girl!

Moving on to the actual subjective part of this post: which of all of these covers is my personal favourite – and why. To be honest, nothing (for me) can beat the original disco classic, but in my opinion there’s always room for new interpretations for a fresh remake of the song.

And I have to admit listening to this emancipatory anthem at least a couple of times a week. Blame marketing etc. but the version of Demi Lovato pops up in the search results every time on Spotify. Without knowing a lot about the singer and her previous career, I actually really think she nailed it in this version – originally used in the 2016 Angry Birds film.

The three versions mentioned above were the ones I had acknowledged before making this post. The case with pretty much every big song is that they most probably are covered a million times in all kinds of reality-TV singing competitions all around the world.

Out of all the versions found on YouTube, this one really caught my attention. There is something really raw and deep in the timbre of the voice of a competitor in The Voice Portugal 2016, Laura Vargas. I especially love the way she starts the first part of the song, before the rest of the live band joins in the party.

The version performed by Nils Landgren (below) is one of the covers performed by male vocals. As much as I enjoyed it, I have to be wondering: what does all the pictures of the beautiful models have to do with the actual song and its historically important message to women?

Despite of the fact that the quality of the video below doesn’t perhaps match the standard level of even slightly popular Youtubers these days, I somehow found the performance really refreshing and original after listening to (vocals starting around 2:50) countless people who are trained and trying to sing as flawlessly as possible.

In my opinion, this style of performing really suits this song; the singer Petra Magoni succeeds in passing on the feelings of feminist emancipation. Of course, someone in the comments section calls the performance as ‘a cruel torture for a great song’ but in my opinion they did something different and rather unique – and that is something that should be valued. Perhaps it has also something to do with the culturally constructed social norms of the ways the majority of people still think women should sing…

On a side note, I think that it is not only possible but even likely that Destiny’s Child song ‘Survivor’ from the year 2001 has been inspired by ‘I Will Survive’. And surprise surprise – the two songs have been combined in a mash-up at least as early as 2011 on the television show ‘Glee’s’ third season.

However, the version below was the first mash-up that I came across with; performed in the reality-show ‘Rising Star Indonesia’ by the 17-year-old-competitor Talita Arsyta. I think it was a pretty good show!

(Finally also Gloria Gaynor herself with the powerful background choir sang a mash-up of the two songs at the 21st National Television Awards back in January 2016.)

After multiple days of torturing my dog, my neighbours, and a little bit myself too, I finally think that I am done with this song… for some while!

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section and please feel free to give me suggestions if you have any ideas of the next song I should cover! (Not like record a cover and put it here but… you probably got what I meant!)

Yours,

Miah

Finland, music, popular culture

California Blue in Finnish is No Good!

After the new found passion for the works of Chris Isaak, I stumbled upon Roy Orbison on Spotify. California Blue is one of the tunes framing my early childhood in the Finnish countryside. I didn’t actually realize that the successful album ‘Mystery Girl’ was released as late as 1989 (just a couple of months after Orbison passed away, sadly). I somehow connected Orbison to the early sixties – which was the commercial peak of his career, indeed.

Lately I have absolutely fallen for Orbison’s unique and soft voice that is ageless and somehow very passionate, yet in the most respectable way. Also, based on his shy charisma, Orbison seems like a super nice and sympathetic person. (Correct me if I am wrong.)

Here’s the lyrics of the hit ‘California Blue’ – which seems like rather a contradictory title since California seems like a warm and exotic place. Definitely something you’d go spend your honeymoon or start your family life in. Being blue on the other hand feels rather cold – like a winter night or a thick blanket of glittering snow? How can you be depressed and sad in place with almost a tropical climate, though?

California blue

Dreaming all alone

Nothing else to do

California blue

Everyday I pray I’ll be on my way

Saving love for you

California blue

One sunny day

I’ll get back again

Somehow, some way

But I don’t know when

California blue

California blue

However, the Finnish lyrics for the song pretty much ruin everything for me. I’m not a linguist but I tried to make a direct translation of the  for you below:

In the time of full moon

Underneath the ash tree

You stand by my side

You belong only to me

Do you remember the secret island?

And the kiss

We did it

Underneath the ash tree

In the time of the full moon

Not to mention the singer Kari Tapio’s victorious emphasis on the fact that they completed the deeds. OMG. Sounds like penetrative heteronormative outdoor sex in a romanticized and exoticized surroundings to me.

Where the meaning of the original English version is tied to Orbison’s gentle voice singing about his sadness (and fidelity) over the distance for the significant other, the Finnish version is basically about a bored, wear-out worker’s lust for sex. Good job in translating the romance, dudes!

Yours,

Miah

daily blog, music, popular culture

All the Solitary Men Stuck in My Head.

You know the time when you suddenly remember a good song or find a new one which you quickly become absolutely obsessed over? Eventually you end up banging your head in the desperate hopes of getting rid of the melody that has been haunting you night and day – in the worst case for weeks on end. ‘Solitary Man’ has been my latest musical torture, and it all started just over a week ago. Now I am going to pass the pain forward by introducing possibly the three best-known versions recorded of the song.

And as a Finn and a die-hard fan of HIM, I am going to start with this version. Now, judge me or not but I actually thought ‘Solitary Man’ was their original song until a couple of years back… Whoops, my bad! Anyway, this version was published in 2004 in the compilation album ‘And Love Said No: The Greatest Hits 1997–2004′. The music video was directed by Bam Margera, American professional skateboarder and friend of the lead singer of HIM, Ville Valo.

Apparently, as I quickly learned, the original version is written by the singer and song-writer Neil Diamond, published back in 1966. In my opinion, the lyrics resonate the shy-but-artistic kinda vibe of a passionate but relatively conservative romanticist in the beginning of a rebellious post-modern era when planning a life with one and only partner can be considered going against the rebellion amongst the youth?

For me, the representation of shallow love as a ‘paper ring’ is the most ingenious verse of the whole song. An engagement and/or wedding ring considered as the circular never-ending symbol of love and commitment thus becomes intentionally downplayed by the fact that paper as a material is very fragile and thin. If you give someone a paper ring as a promise of a future together, even the symbolic object will most likely will rip apart before you know it. Traditionally (for example in Finland and in the United States) people who are celebrating their first anniversary is said to have ‘paper wedding’ which, in the contemporary context, could be linked to the fact that half of the marriages last less than one year.

I’ve had it to here
Bein’ where love’s a small word
Part-time thing, paper ring
I know it’s been done
Havin’ one girl who’ll love me
Right or wrong, weak or strong

Don’t know that I will
But until I can find me
The girl who’ll stay
And won’t play games behind me
I’ll be what I am
A solitary man, solitary man

On the other hand, the song with its meaning is still as relevant in 2018 than it was 50 years ago. As long as there is people that believe in one true life-lasting love, I guess? I’m just speculating that it must take a lot of devotion and tons of hard work to maintain and grow your love for another person. At least if there are no forms of violence involved, it must pay off at the end of the day.

Actually, from all these versions the one that pleased me the most was performed by Chris Isaak – the king of the 90’s rockabilly falsetto. Of course I had heard of him and some of his songs before but his just happened the time his music really hit me close home.

And now I am listening to the album ‘San Francisco Nights’ on Spotify all day long, to the point where it has begun to affect my style of clothing as well. I have to admit buying lately a lot of clothing items that match my preferred version of rockabilly-style summer clothing from Finnish online auctions… Let me know if you’d be interest for me to do a haul of what I got!

Interestingly, the original Chris Isaak song ‘Wicked Game’ was the cover hit that first brought HIM into the pop/rock charts. Hence, the circle is completed… Coincidence – I think not! Please let me know what’s the one song that has been stuck in a loop in your head (and how you got rid of it)?

Yours,

Miah

cinema, daily blog, popular culture

I Went to Watch A Quiet Place.

I’m probably amongst the late bloomers who only recently have gone to see the film ‘A Quiet Place’ after reading some good reviews and rumours on social media. I rarely go out to the cinema due to the fact that I’m broke and the tickets cost like 10-15 euros in Finland. But this one I just had to check out myself!

And because I don’t have any friends and I am such a wimp in general – I decided to hit the closest theatre all by myself in the middle of the afternoon so that it wouldn’t be too dark after finishing the film! And it all worked out pretty well since I found myself to have been entertained. And not pooping my pants on the way home. Thus, I am highly recommending you to go and see it with your own eyes (if you are looking a commercial cinema experience, of course).

Here’s the expended teaser trailer for you as a proof that my precautions were justifiable. The atmosphere already on the two-minute trailer is somewhat creepy.

Since the Internet is already filled with really good high-quality interpretations of the representations, technical stuff and themes of the film, I’m not going to get into that too deeply (though I added a couple of my favourite YouTube reviews). Obviously you shouldn’t watch these if you are not up for serious spoilers of the film.

First of all, I found ‘A Quiet Place’ to be really aesthetically pleasing to the eye – at least for me since I always enjoy the late summer forest landscapes and camper-like costumes.

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Oh, wouldn’t I just love a good bare-feet hike in silence!

On the other hand, this kind of setting can also be viewed as a romanticized representation of almost nostalgic-like happy family life in the picturesque countryside. Although at least science fiction fans can appreciate all the kids-lost-in-corn references. The atmosphere did remind me of something that could as well have been written by Stephen King.

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Charming sibling team spirit blooming in the middle of the corn.

My initial thoughts (that eventually turned into quite a post-modern-wave feminist reading) were small notions of the mundane day-to-day practises the family had developed to survive the new situation.

From my perspective, the Abbot family daughter being deaf must have given the family important preparedness to switch the majority of communication to sign language. Also the relatively isolated location of their family farm must have contributed to the fact that they (or at least most of the family members) had made it that far.

It was interesting to see what kinds of solutions the screen writers and production team had come up with in order to make the new kind of world, only with quiet nature-made (rather than man-made) sounds, alive. Moving without shoes, marking the screeching floor boards with paint, spreading sand in the most commonly used path ways and using leaves instead of plates is all part of this new, scaring world.

As a publicly out introvert, I must confess that in some perverted way I did enjoy this scenario…

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A protective lighting code between the two realms: home and the wilderness.

And that’s exactly what we should be asking from ourselves: what really is the factor that makes this film such a horrific science fiction thriller? Is it only the creatures hiding in the woods or the fact that humans have been forced to mould their invasive life style by another life form?

It’s a known scientific fact that modern societies produce massive amounts of noise pollution penetrating into practically every ecosystem on this planet. The constant noise doesn’t only deteriorate the health and well-being of us, humans, but also the other animals living in both densely populated as well as wilderness areas. What comes to the natural habitats, humans can push the animals only so far – but what happens when you can’t run any further? Or worse, are bound to face excruciating daily pain in a surroundings you physically cannot get away from? We should remember that the way our species have evolved to sense our surroundings is not generic: what is a relatively pleasing rock concert to us could be a painful experience to some other species in this planet. Eventually the ending of the film can be explained by this, as well.

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Think about this.

This kind of environmental/animal rights reading is interesting to juxtapose next to the phenomena described in the film. ‘A Quiet Place’ as a term indicates that the entirety of the space (as in the whole planet) has become silent – when measured with the past terms of societies. As a common theme in the monster-type of science fiction films, human kind is put up to the challenge of facing another, more invasive and dominant species – which is automatically perceived as a threat. (Though sometimes this logic is questioned depending on the depth of the film.)

What comes to the ‘liberality/conservatism’ and feminism aspects, the film can be read from multiple perspectives depending on your walk of life. It has also been suggested that the film promotes political silence (or criticizes it, depending on the view) in a world where freedom of speech has become jeopardized. Not giving any examples here but you may speculate yourselves.

Personally, my reading was that even though some of the representations were quite traditional (focus being clearly on the family unity), especially the strong female characters formed the core of the film.

a-quiet-place

I might be wrong, but I argue that it’s quite a contemporary solution to place the agony and strength of women as mothers in the centre of a science fiction horror story. ‘A Quiet Place’ does this by honouring and empowering the mother as a hero, not exploiting the symbolism of pregnancy in some twisted, gory way. The traditional masculine battle scenes are quite secondary ones in the film where the toughest, and scariest, parts are when the horrified viewer has to follow the mother going through the labour pain trying to stay silent while hiding the monsters. On the other hand, not all women are mothers or prefer to be valued as such. Also that aspect is represented in the personalities of the two elder kids (more about that below).

For me, the daughter’s character was the most interesting from the start. Though a lot of the tension was built around the mother, pregnant in a world where every little sound may quite likely lead to your death. Luckily they had developed the innovative (and creepy) baby-in-a-box solution!

The viewer is tempter over and over again to dive deep down to oneself in order to ask the ultimate question: what is the meaning of humanity and human life in a world where becoming a parent may very easily kill yourself – and all the loved ones near you. The mother clearly has an answer to this question: if they can’t protect their children, they have become the monsters themselves. It all comes down to a very American theme in survival films – family. The Abbots have clearly made an ethical choice to protect their children and family at all costs – even when it means risking your life in order to save another.

I found both of the leading ladies, Emily Blunt as well as Millicent Simmonds, to have given absolutely amazing screen performances on a film that only has a couple of lines of dialogue in it. Clearly the casting had to be just right in order to pick actors that can express a lot with small gestures and expressions.

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Mommy with a gun knows the best.

The plot also has enough room to twist the traditional gender roles when the son has a more soft and ‘feminine’ personality which can be seen when he delightedly holds his baby brother in a way that at least I interpreted to be a more’ feminine’ than masculine or paternal one. The deaf daughter on the other hand is frustrated by the over-protecting father when she would want to explore and learn about the monsters lurking outside. Even if the son wants to be the one staying behind helping his mother and the daughter is the one rebelling against the will of the head of the family, the two siblings clearly pull it together when it comes to team work against the monsters. And that brings us back to the central theme of the film, family.

Have you already seen ‘A Quiet Place’? Please let me know what you thought of the film in the comments section or if you haven’t seen it, are you still planning to? Were you annoyed by the lack of special effects noise that would normally cover the sound of the crunching popcorn or did you enjoy the relative peace/horror the silence brought within? And, most importantly for me, do you have any suggestions for upcoming cinema-related posts?

Yours,

Miah