I have recently developed an obsession with La Roux, which began when Tara mentioned that she had Bulletproof stuck in her head, and culminated with me drunkenly attempting some ill-advised Aquanet experiments.
I had heard of La Roux before, but I hadn’t bothered to listen to their 2009 album because any time the band was mentioned, the entire blurb would be about Elly Jackson’s hair. Her hair is obviously fabulous, a sort of Tintin-meets-Mike-Score swoop, but I don’t choose music based on hairstyles.
So, this weekend, a year after everyone else in the world figured out that the band, which consists of Jackson and her camera-shy bandmate Ben Langmaid, was even more awesome than the singer’s hair, so did I. Tara found the video, and we were psyched to find that the song was sung by a lady who appears to have gone into the future to buy her clothes. “She looks a bit… mannish,” said Tara. “That’s how redheads look without mascara,” I said.*
Since then, my boyfriend and I have been listening to the album quite a bit, which led to Mike’s interesting comparison of Elly Jackson and Lady Gaga. Mike can’t stand Lady Gaga. Part of the reason he hates her is that he feels like she works so hard to create a persona that borrows from many more musically talented artists (my only beef with Gaga is that the studded bra looked better on me when I wore it six months ago). While the comparison between Jackson and Gaga seems odd, I think it’s apt when you consider Mike’s claim that Jackson does everything Gaga claims to do, only way better and without the need to constantly declare that she is edgy and weird.
We discussed their stage personas: Gaga often talks about sexual identity, and has cast androgynous-looking folks in her videos, and talks a big game about looking weird and being a big weirdo monster lady with a telephone glued to her head. I appreciate that she is a mainstream artist trying to send the message that it’s normal and okay to be gay or straight or bi or trans or pantsless, but I also wonder if pop stars kissing girls in music videos is bringing about any kind of real change.** I am bored by pretty people of any gender kissing in music videos, and I’m over pop tarts gyrating in sparkly underpants. Underpants aren’t edgy. Everyone wears underpants, it’s just that most of us have jobs with dress codes that require us to cover them up.
Elly Jackson, on the other hand, is pulling off the whole androgynous futuristic sexy weirdo thing without having to be half naked. Even though in her videos, she barely moves, she has a bit of that strange magnetism that musicians like David Bowie and Mick Jagger have, wearing outfits that might be legitimately fugly on most people and making it look like a good idea. Her persona is more mysterious, more interesting, and more truly weird*** than Lady Gaga’s played-out Marilyn Manson meets Madonna schtick.
When it comes to the actual music, the comparison seems almost unfair. I mean, Alejandro’s embarrassing fake accents can’t hold up to I’m Not Your Toy’s irresistible catchiness. Also, I can’t hear Alejandro without changing the words to “don’t call my name, don’t call my name, Oscar Romero.”
Clearly I have spent way too much time thinking about this, but it’s rare to find a band with an image and an album that I equally love like crazy. And this video makes me wish they would cast Elly Jackson as the next James Bond (or at least have her do the cheesy theme song).
*At least, that’s how I look without mascara.
**Everyone Lady Gaga has kissed in a music video has been insanely gorgeous, so if she is using her videos as an excuse to make out with whoever she wants, I can appreciate that.
***I have said weird like eight times in this post. It doesn’t even look like a word anymore.