Welcome to Obsessed, a weekly series featuring everything the KQED Arts gang can't stop talking about. We're bringing the conversation from the watercooler to cyber space! This week, we're freaking out over Ghostface Killah's favorite jazz musicians, the music videos of Hiro Murai, Selena, and more!
Every Frame a Painting
It’s notoriously difficult to talk about movies in any depth—beyond “It’s in black and white!”—without sounding like a tedious poser. That’s why I love these zippy video essays on how and why films work, by San Francisco-based buff Tony Zhou. Delving into the nitty-gritty of technique and style without ever being pretentious, they reveal all the stuff you never notice, drawing from a huge range of movies you’ll actually, you know, recognize (no film school preciousness here). My favorites so far? His take on text messages on-screen, the ferry scene in Jaws and why Jackie Chan’s fights are so fun to watch. Like the best explainers, these fascinating videos underestimate your knowledge, not your intelligence. (P.S. I only just learned that Tony is based in San Francisco while writing this! Which means… he could be in my Starbucks right now, snipping bits out of Goodfellas!)
The year was 2003, and jazz was yet again declared to be dead; yet out of the abyss came These are the Vistas, the major-label debut of iconoclastic trio the Bad Plus. They covered Nirvana and Blondie. They played jazz like lion tamers. They got a 7.0 from Pitchfork. And just like that, thousands of indie-rock fans started listening to jazz. Twelve years later, the Toronto trio BadBadNotGood is doing the same thing for hip-hop fans—playing jazz with a boom-bap backbeat and collaborating with Tyler, the Creator, Frank Ocean, and Ghostface Killah. In fact, BadBadNotGood provides the instrumental backing for Ghostface's new album, Sour Soul, but I'm currently obsessed with the group's latest release as a trio, the more traditionally jazzy III. Of course, someone's uploaded the entire album to YouTube -- hear it above.
Also Shot On iPhone 6
When I first saw Apple’s 'Shot on iPhone 6' campaign, it brought to mind creepy marketers combing through thousands of people's photo albums to find images that would create the photo journal of the Perfect Person’s life. Many of the images they selected for the campaign depict moments of said Perfect Person in serene beauty: standing on top of a mountain, walking in woods blanketed with snow, sitting at the beach looking at the sunset, walking through sunflower fields.
After seeing these billboards plastered all over SF, I found them tiresome….UNTIL I came across Also Shot On iPhone 6. The folks behind the Also Shot On campaign says their prank was created “to shed light on the fact that most photos taken with the device are a little less than perfect, and simply possessing an iPhone 6 probably isn’t going to change that for the typical consumer.” I love the snarky, DIY attitude of this advertising hack.
Hiro Murai's Music Videos
Hiro Murai makes music videos that swiftly transport you to another world, taking you to intense, riveting places in just a few minutes. His fascination with the mystery of dream states and uncanny vibes is strongly reflected in his work. Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus weren’t the focus of Murai’s video for their “Never Catch Me” collab, but the narrative was powerful and abstractly illustrative of the musicians’ intentions. Another favorite is St. Vincent's "Cheerleader"; Murai was inspired by hyper-real sculptor Ron Mueck for the larger-than-life video. And those two are just scratching the surface of all the rad music videos he's made. Head over to his official site and sink into short films set to music by Childish Gambino, the Shins, Sia, Earl Sweatshirt, Cults, Shabazz Palaces and more!
This week marked the 20th anniversary of Selena's death, so her music has been pumping through my headphones nonstop. I wrote a piece for KQED Pop about why Selena was so important. Yes, she had an amazing voice and so much charisma, but beyond her music and personality, the reason she is still remembered is that she made people who weren’t used to being represented feel seen, and made this first-generation kid stop apologizing for his difference and revel in it instead. For that, I will always love her. The disco medley above is from her last concert. It captures everything Selena did best.
Want more? Check out our past obsessions!