“Turn and face the strange,” David Bowie sang while recording ‘Changes’ fifty years ago. True to the theme of his 1972 single, there have been many changes at The Glitter and Gold over the past four months. As creative director of a new publication, I have been searching for the right editorial tone. Balancing a mix of heritage and innovation has been something at the forefront of my mind.
Looking back while embracing what is coming next often leads me to the inevitable conclusion that the world is always in a state of change. Appearances, however, can be deceiving. Many of these changes are not half as novel as we make them out to be.
When Kurt Cobain was asked why he wore dresses in the 1990s, the grunge icon replied Queen had done it before him. Men wearing women’s dresses was something that happened every 10 years he said. And when they did people were, predictably, shocked.
David Bowie, whose ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ Cobain famously covered in 1993, wore dresses shortly before his Ziggy Stardust fame. Half a century after David Bowie raised eyebrows, Harry Styles caused a media frenzy when he appeared wearing a dress on the cover of Vogue in December 2020. Many were shocked, though The 1975‘s Matt Healy had been performing in vintage dresses for at least a year beforehand. Dresses, of course, have been a popular men’s streetwear item for closing in on half a decade.
Another example of the new linking to the old is the colliding aesthetic of modern fashion. As the unveiling of GUCCI’s 2021 ARIA collection recently revealed, ’70s, ’90s and y2k aesthetics are dominating the fashion world. Dua Lipa is an example of someone who embraces this multi-era combustion. She takes Melanie C‘s “Sporty Spice” Spice Girl image and appropriates it into a modern statement of the athletic Alpha Female. Her breakthrough 2020 album Future Nostalgia models itself closely on the sound of disco hitmaker and David Bowie producer Nile Rodgers. Wearing items like a visible above-the-waist “thong” g-string, Lipa also half-jokingly throws back to the fashion of early the early 2000s.
Billie Eilish’s Vintage Hollywood Aesthetic
The future has never felt more like the past. A recent teaser for Billie Eilish‘s much anticipated second album Happier Than Ever crosses between Old Hollywood glamour and ’70s fashion. Eilish’s June 2021 Vogue cover photo shows the 19-year-old pop star styled as a star of the silver screen in a pink Gucci outfit.
Days of Future Past
Eilish is a Los Angeles native. Many of her fellow LA artists also express a similar fascination mirroring modern Hollywood’s recent obsession with cinema’s most freewheeling decade. For more examples of this aesthetic see the music video of The Strokes ‘Bad Decisions‘, Tame Impala‘s ‘Lost In Yesterday‘, and the visuals associated with The Arctic Monkey‘s musically questionable but visually impressive AM follow-up Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino. Merging tastes like these with hip hop’s colorful anime fixation, LA rapper Saweetie is selling flared track pants. Her ‘Best Friend‘ collaborator Doja Cat has sported similar fashion and expressed the forthcoming second album Planet Her will throwback to a classic disco sound.
What This Means For The Glitter and Gold
Creativity is connectivity. Artists are some of the greatest connectors in our culture. I would like The Glitter and Gold to take some of these connections and tie them to a deeper undercurrent of human nature. Or simply what is going on in our everyday lives.
True to this ideal, The Glitter and Gold embraces the new. Our Podcast, hosted by musician Emily Hollit (who performs as Malina Claire) is currently in the process of being fine-tuned. We are also developing a series of TikTok reels which will be familiar to the platform’s users while giving them an experience faithful to The Glitter and Gold’s own message.
Amidst the rush of the new, my mind has turned to the old. A newspaper column is typically a looser take than a feature article or even a fiery opinion piece. There is an opportunity to zoom out. Here I can take a loose walk through the bigger picture of popular culture while talking about many of the things that are going on in the world right now.
Final Thoughts on David Bowie
David Bowie’s ‘Changes’ explores the inevitability of time. Time, he sings will change us. It arrives in our lives whether we want it to or not. The best we can do when change confronts us is to face it.
Kurt Cobain was concerned with the change of another kind. As an artist, he believed in the power within to create change in the world around us. His life is, however, a cautionary tale. One which suggests we should not overestimate our ability to control reality. On finding fame and fortune, Cobain was dismayed to discover that few of Nirvana’s millions of fans were willing to embrace his views. Ultimately it was one of the factors which led to his untimely demise on April 8, 1994.
Unlike Cobain and David Bowie, Billie Eilish is still among us. She, like Kurt Cobain, is currently facing the burden of not only enormous fame but the mantle of being The Voice of a Generation. Her recent change in image suggests she is refusing to be boxed in by expectation. The new single ‘Your Power’ is another reminder of the incredible and often unrecognized potential within us all to create change.
Changes Are Afoot
I was at a cousin’s 21st birthday yesterday and Destiny’s Child‘s ‘Say My Name’ came on. Immediately it was paused. Doja Cat and ABBA were not. Beyoncé paused? Is the Queen of Pop sounding a little tired in 2021?
I often read into small things like these as an Astrologer attempts to divine the complexities of a person’s character from a birth chart. Pop culture has spent more than a year on pause. While it has, new feelings, values and perspectives have been flooding into our lives.
Changes are afoot. Many have happened in the last year. 2021, no doubt, has many more in store. I look forward to sharing some of them with you here.
What I’m Listening To
Billie Eilish ‘Your Power’
Much of what I have to say of Billie Eilish’s ‘Your Power’ has been said by The Glitter and Gold contributor Emma Whines’ review of the new single. What I will add here is this. Lyrically Eilish has come a long way from the innocent ambiguity of ‘Ocean Eyes’. The song tells the story of Eilish’s own experiences with sexual abuse, though the language of its lyrics offers so many more layers to explore. In modern culture, we often take a direct and literal meaning of words. ‘Your Power’ sits heavy with double meaning. Is Eilish asking us here to use our own power to change the world or putting herself in the role of a victim protesting against the victory of her abuser? Do you take it as a statement for all women or as Eilish talking about strictly her own fame and life’s experience? Cerebral. You can hum-sing it too.
Mitski ‘Washing Machine Heart’
I noticed Mitski‘s 2018 song ‘Washing Machine Heart’ was one of the top trending searches on the internet’s most popular song lyric website Genius last week. This tends to suggest a song has been featured in a popular Netflix series, advertisement or film. Though it could also be that the #stopasianhate campaign and newfound freedom in celebrating Asian culture is leading to greater visibility for cult acts such as Mitski.
Paul McCartney ‘One Of These Days’
I recently launched The Glitter and Gold’s online store. The purpose is to give readers another way to connect with the brand while creating resources for our writers. Amongst the inventory are cassette copies of the McCartney I, McCartney II, and McCartney III. Years before Mac Demarco and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker were writing, recording, and playing their own albums solo Paul McCartney quit The Beatles and did it first. While McCartney’s peak years of mediation were in the 1960s, I would suggest McCartney II tracks like ‘Waterfalls’ and ‘One of These Days’ shows Paul was still subtly championing the mindfulness movement in the 1980s. The fact McCartney II was released shortly after the Beatle’s nine-day stint in a Japanese prison for marijuana possession, no doubt adds to the gravitas and mystique to some of the more overlooked of McCartney’s songs.
Nirvana ‘Heart-Shaped Box’
The first sales from the Glitter and Gold’s online store were two preloved Nirvana albums, Nevermind and MTV Unplugged In New York. Both are iconic. It has led me to revisit Kurt Cobain’s work. And I have to say, I love the hooks. “Hey, wait, I got a new complaint.”
Franz Liszt ‘Dreams of Love No.3’
The dreamy quality of 1800s piano pieces fascinates me. Closely connected with classical composers Chopin and Wagner, Franz Liszt lived a colorful life. He was a celebrity not too far removed from pop stars today. The incorrect title ‘Love Dream’ popped up on a YouTube recommendation for Liszt’s most well-known song ‘Lieberstraum No. 3’. I have made a note to use this title for a future The Glitter and Gold project.
What I’m Reading
Ahead of a new feature article on Kurt Cobain by writer Beth Davis I have been refreshing my memory on the life of Nirvana’s driving force. Danny Goldberg‘s Serving The Servant and Everett True‘s Live Through This are both written by figures close to Cobain. Both tie his life and work into bigger pop culture narratives. True casts Cobain as a punk. Goldberg sees him as a songwriter, part of a greater linage of larger-than-life personalities, visionaries, and writers who, every generation, rise to the top to say something never to be repeated.
I am also making my way through St. Augustine of Hippo‘s The Confessions. Like Cobain, Augustine lived hard and fast before becoming one of the most original thinkers of his era. Augustine, however, abandoned his aspiration for fame as a public figure and turned to a religious life before passing away aged 75. Would Cobain have found peace in religion had he continued on, I have found myself asking as I write this? Or would he have pulled a masterful disappearing act like David Bowie?