Is Erykah Badu’s new video really so controversial?

Erykah Badu premiered the video for her new single “Window Seat” the other day to a fair Internet furore. The video depicts Badu walking the streets of Dallas as she takes off item by item of clothing until she ends up naked, mock-shot, in a spot near where President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.

Filmed in one day and one take on March 13, this clip more than anything is an exercise in, and example of, how to do an immediately eye-catching and memorable video with minimum budget and minimum “story.” Not for Badu ostentatious effects or dance routines. She doesn’t even bother to lip-sync to the song, a superior slice of sophisticated soul. Yet it’s easily one of 2010’s most inventive and unique clips. Lady GaGa does the video “event” incredibly well, but Badu really does it equally well here – via a completely different method and effect.

The video has attracted some controversy, but really, is it so controversial? It is 2010. Is the sight of a female nude in 2010 so shocking? Maybe it is, to some. But this video is another example of Badu’s artistic fearlessness and honesty and she deserves some credit for it. The people in the video are not paid actors or extras, they’re real people walking on the same streets at the same time. Badu has said she was “too busy looking for cops” to be embarrassed by her nudity; even when she spotted children, she stuck to her guns and kept on with the take. Again, artistic fearlessness.

Badu has also said of the video: “I’ve been naked all along in my words, actions, and deeds. That’s the real vulnerable place.” That puts into context the absurdity of the furore surrounding a video clip of a naked woman. Of course, there are public decency rules, and Badu has told how some passers-by shouted at her that she should be “ashamed” of herself for stripping in a public place, but I’d hardly deem it overly offensive. It’s a music video. Let’s think about that for a moment.

There’s not necessarily much correlation between the song itself and the video (although Badu has said that the song “is about liberating yourself from layers and layers of skin or demons that are a hindrance to your growth or freedom, or evolution”), but ultimately “Window Seat” has the potential to join the ranks of some great iconic video clips. It puts me in mind of Massive Attack’s “Unfinished Sympathy,” and in its sheer honesty and bravery and raw lack of polish, also recalls Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.” As a bid for gaining extra exposure for Badu’s new album New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh, it’s certainly done its job. A cynical ploy to get attention and album sales? Well, maybe. But it worked.


Filed under: Art, Culture, Music, , , , , , , ,

One Response

  1. rob g says:

    didn’t alanis morrisette also appear nude in public for a video?

    Public nudity traumatizing children and leading to chaos and anarchy always appeared to be conservative based groupthink using fear of something that maybe another generation’s children weren’t allowed to question. Many since then, including women and minorities, have gotten the rights that they weren’t allowed to question in the past as well.

    I understand children are not even aware of what to think about nudity, until the laws about decency are explained to them, but I believe there’s always traditionalism and conservatives who have spoken for them in their place. I believe a child can speak for theirselves much more then the majority’s political agenda, which created laws which the other political agenda attempts to reform if they can find a intelligent liberal agenda of fearless free thinkers in order to do so. With our liberal president,I wonder if badu thought this was the time to bring naturalism to the forefront?

    There’s nothing obscene about public nudity if I’m free to turn my interest away from engaging in what is at least a guilty pleasure publically. Nude Sculptures are public, Animals have sex organs, Public nudity being obscene is just a cover up for some minoritie’s public opinion and vanity in artistic expressing being obscene to those without choice. Children are not without choice if they think something is gross to look at or not. This is what I don’t understand.

    As a child, public nudity appeared to be more traumatic if I had did it to adults, then adults naked around me as I would suck on my mother’s nipple,change in gym with my peers, or sitting on a bench in a public pools dressing area around obese and elderly men, including my father.

    Her video appeared to be more about character assassination then naturalism, but I have always wanted to know how the nudists felt about their rights..I hope this gives some of them the confidence to expose their ideas and their bodies to reform the ideas of obscenity that I feel our country gets wrong when violence and obesity are more visible then ever.

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