Sunday, December 1, 2013

Things that Make Me Happy #2: The Perfect Retro


Some time ago, I had a post where I did a gratefulness exercise inspired by a similar exercise that we did during Residents Only time during didactics, in which we usually do some type of meditation. The first one was called "Things that Make Me Happy." Self-explanatory. The second was "That Day He'll Love Me Back," which is my favorite part of unrequited love, the moment of anticipation when your beloved realizes that he or she loves you, too, and you begin your lives together.

That anticipation, which lasts for several moments over the span of an unrequited love, makes me very happy.

So this also makes me happy: the perfect retro.

Bruno Mars did it with "Treasure." Let me explain why.

Could have left out the "Baby squirrel, yous a sexy m***f***er" part, though, but whatevs.

I thought the song was cute months ago when I heard it, but I didn't see the video until recently. I don't generally watch videos but I saw a Bruno Mars video while getting bubble tea one day and I was like, huh, I wonder what this one looks like...

..and I fell in love.

Let me break it down for you.

First, the video. Bruno Mars is my age, born in 1985. The style of this video is clearly before either of our times. I would place this video pre-Thriller, probably late 70s to early 80s, more precicely 1979 to 1982.

Let me give you a few examples of what this video reminds me of.

Of course, the video reminds the most of one of Bruno Mars' greatest influences, Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson, "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough," Off the Wall, 1979.
 This was the first video that came to mind when I saw "Treasure." Going to the end of that era of music video is the likes of Gap Band's "You Dropped a Bomb on Me."

The Gap Band, "You Dropped a Bomb on Me," The Gap Band III, 1982

And if it weren't for wikipedia, I would have never seen this video, but Bruno Mars and his producers must have seen this Earth, Wind and Fire video, because a lot of the elements are identical.
From the special effects, to the basic choreography, to the random chick dancing in it, everything...he nailed this era!

Earth, Wind and Fire, "Let's Groove," Raise!, 1981


Seeing the video made me appreciate the song a lot more. Honestly, when I first heard the song back in the summer, because I heard it at a wedding that was also playing older songs (I heard one of my faves referenced in the aforementioned entries, "Overjoyed."), I thought it was an old song that I perhaps hadn't heard before. Maybe somebody's B side or something. Thought maybe the artist was DeBarge or something, since I don't know a lot of their stuff. Then I started hearing it on the radio and I realized that it wasn't old, and that it was Bruno Mars.

There are definitely elements of the song itself that place it in that late 70s, early 80s era. First, lyrically, a song named on the simple premise of praising a woman, naming one of her attributes...that is a classic attribute of many songs of the era.

Coming to mind immediately are, "Outstanding" by Gap Band (Gap Band IV, 1982). Others include, "Special Lady" by Ray, Goodman and Brown (Ray, Goodman & Brown, 1979) and "You are My High" by The Gap Band (The Gap Band II, 1979). Lyrics only, because these songs have a different groove, obviously. Of course this concept extends outside of this era, but I feel like this era was one of the last times that R&B had songs like this that were chaste declarations of love without some muted or overt sexual reference.

For example, "Candy" by Cameo (1985). Obvious sexual reference.

Then there's the actual music. The beat/groove reminds me of a couple of songs of that disco/post-disco era. First to mind is Emotions, "Best of My Love" (1977). The vocals, once again, reminiscent of Michael Jackson, the dance moves, the same.

But with all of this, he put together a song that really could have come out in 1979. Every element of it (except for the woman in the video doing the Bankhead Bounce, popularized apparently by this song in 1995) is true to that time, including the instrumentation and vocal effects.

Why does this make me happy? Because, this is my dream!

I have a story idea called, "The Misadventures of Nisa," that is set in the early 80s, and it's either going to be a musical or it'll have a lot of music in it. I've got the basic concepts for 3 songs in it so far, one that is the theme, another that is just one of the side songs, and another that is an instrumental for the background. The story itself is really campy, but it's an outlet for me to write songs that I think could have existed in the era. For whatever reason, even though the music wasn't the greatest in terms of quality, I love 80s music for what it is, I think more than any other era. The 1960s had the best soul, the 1970s had the best funk, bass progressions and Stevie Wonder, the 1990s has my heart and is the first era where I have real nostalgia for the music, the 2000s lost my interest.

The 1980s were...awesome. It was flux, it was worldly, it was uncertainty, it was instability, it was change, it was disintegration. It was the era that gave birth to hip hop, which degenerated into gansta rap. It was the era of fame and change for Michael Jackson. It was the era of AIDS with no cure in sight, the war on drugs and the introduction of crack cocaine into the inner city. It was an era of big hair and harsh makeup and men in skinny jeans for the first time. It was the first era I look at documented in television where people look the most human to me, and not coiffed in clothing that is characteristic, universal and just-so to give us the semblance of civilization. It was more animal. It was dirtier, messier. You could almost smell the 80s.

Or maybe it's the first era that's really real to me because I was born in it. That could be it.

But someone who is able to pull of that perfect retro, harkening back in a piece of music or art or whatever to an era that actually existed such that my own mother, who existed in that era, thought that it was actually an old video of an artist she didn't know? That is genius right there.

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