00
עדכונים

מנוי במייל

קבלת עדכונים על רשומות חדשות ישירות לתיבת האמייל
יש להזין אימייל תקין על מנת להרשם לעדכונים
ברגעים אלו נשלח אליך אימייל לאישור/ביטול ההרשמה
*שים/י לב, מרגע עשית מנוי, כותב/ת הבלוג יוכל לראות את כתובת האמייל שלך ברשימת העוקבים.
X

פ.י.מ.פ.

Analyzing Bowie: China Girl

<-previous

The album The Idiot was made at David Bowie and Iggy Pop's darkest hour, when they were trying to run away from it all. Both of them suffering a spiritual crisis and feeling they have lost their way, both heavily addicted to hard drugs, both in bad shape physically and mentally, they fled America and started to look for a new home in Europe. They eventually found Berlin which provided them with a cocoon that enabled them to heal and retain their balance, but when they recorded this album in late 1976 they were still lost. It is well reflected in the album, in which Iggy sounds like a soulless robot singing against a backdrop of repetitive machine noise, finding no more joys or pleasures in life, perceiving the humans around him as replicants, feeling like he's losing his humanity. 'China Girl' is the only track in which he sounds like a human with a soul, but when you look into that soul, you begin to understand why he would rather be a robot…

'China Girl' is a fantasy about a female lover. Iggy's voice, at first, sound quite warm, the warmest it gets on that album. As the fantasy begins to unfold, it appears to be a nice love song.

I could escape this feeling
With my China Girl
I'm just a wreck without
My little China Girl
I'd hear hearts beating
Loud as thunder
See the stars crashing
I'm a mess without
My China Girl
Wake up mornings, there's
No China Girl
I'd hear hearts beating
Loud as thunder
I'd see stars crashing down

Iggy imagines how nice it would be to have a Chinese girl to love him and take care of him. Feeling so empty himself, the only thing that can help him escape this feeling and bring joy back into his life is the love of another. When he describes how lost he would be without her, he is actually describing his current condition. The only thing that keeps him going is the dream of the powerful pleasures he could feel yet again if only he had his little China Girl.

There is, of course, another interpretation. "China" is a well-known name for a brand of heroin, and the whole thing can be just a junkie describing his life with and without the drug. We should keep that in mind.

I'd feel tragic
Like I was Marlon Brando
When I'd look at my China Girl
I could pretend that nothing
Really meant too much
When I'd look at my China Girl

With his girl, Iggy feels himself big and important like a movie star. He feels he can do anything. And so…

I'd stumble into town
Just like a sacred cow
Visions of swastikas in my head
And plans for everyone
It's in the white of my eyes

As he gets more and more into his drug-fueled sexual fantasy, his excitement turns it violent. He imagines himself all powerful with his China girl, and with this power he sets out to destroy other people. His voice loses its warmth and becomes maniacal, ending in a blood-curdling scream as he sings the word "white". And white is the key word here. As a white man, he now fantasizes about retaining the domination he once had over women and other races. The sacred cow and the swastika are both spiritual symbols in Eastern culture, but he incorporates them into his psychopathic visions. The sacred cow, which cannot be touched, becomes a symbol for someone who doesn't want to be touched, and the swastikas stand for his fascistic dreams. After becoming this monster, Iggy now reverts his attention back to his girl, singing in a voice dripping with evil:

My little China Girl
You shouldn't mess with me
I'll ruin everything you are
I'll give you television
I'll give you eyes of blue
I'll give you men who want to rule the world

Being so empty inside, there is only one pleasure left in Iggy's world: destroying another person and making her as empty as him. His sexual fantasy will find its fulfillment only in thoughts of completely eradicating any uniqueness that she has. He's going to give her television to get her addicted and destroy her culture, he's going to impregnate her with blue-eyed babies to destroy her ethnicity, he's going to teach her sons to have world-domination fantasies like white imperialists. In 'Mass Production' Iggy imagines a human society where everyone is the same and built from the same mold as if they came out of a production line. Here, he wants to take an active part in erasing human identities and bringing about this society.

These lyrics were written (and partly improvised) by Iggy, but they fit very well with things Bowie was saying at the time. In the previous two years, he was singing and talking about the fascist tendencies that hide behind humanity's civilized veneer. Humans, he claimed in interviews and records like 'Big Brother' and 'Somebody Up There Likes Me', have the desire to be erased and subjugated, and given the chance they will elect a fascist dictator. 'China Girl' adds the other side: they also have the desire to erase and subjugate others, and will do so if we let them. In their darkest hour, Iggy and Bowie expose the darkness of the human soul.

And when I get excited
My little China Girl says,
"Oh Jimmy, just shut your mouth."
She says, "Shhhh..."

Thankfully, once the sexual fantasy reaches its orgasmic climax Iggy is satisfied, and no longer wants to destroy. His girl can then sooth him and bring him back down to earth, not a fascist monster but a regular man ("Jimmy" is Iggy's real name). Alternatively, we can hear this as Iggy shooting another dose of China White into his vein, which kills his sex drive and quiets him down. This latter interpretation would bring full reversal: while he's having domination fantasies, it is actually he who is being totally dominated, slave to the drug that controls him completely. Either way, 'China Girl' is a scary record, the scariest track in what is one of the scariest albums ever made. It can make you lose faith in humanity.

But Bowie and Iggy's faith in humanity was restored in their following albums, and in Let's Dance, Bowie does to 'China Girl' what he does to some other of the dark things he dealt with in the past: dissolves them into ecstatic, fun dance. His remake is danceable and catchy, a mainstream hit which many people danced to without any awareness of its rather horrid content. But it's not like Bowie sold out and turned art into schlock. In his rendition, 'China Girl' becomes an anti-colonialist parable. Now that he has come down to Earth and accepted his place in Western society, Bowie remembers what he learned and uses it to criticize that society. Since he found out that there is such darkness in the human soul that might drive humans to relish destroying those who are under their power, he realizes that we must see to it that no human will be under the power of another, whether it is a woman under the power of a man or a nation under the power of an imperialist conqueror. Bowie's 'China Girl' is a song by a white man who realizes the corrupting nature of his domination over our world.

This message is delivered mainly through the video-clip, which by now has become an integral part of Bowie's art, part of the overall message of the record. We are seeing Bowie as a cultured and enlightened white man dating an Asian woman, treating her as an equal. But enlightened European cultures can become barbaric Nazis as well, and when the moment of madness arrives Bowie steals her food and forces himself on her. In an instant, the woman turns from a liberated modern woman back into a geisha, a slave to his egotistical needs. The video contains other images that remind us of the history of colonialism, such as the part where Bowie mimics the famous photo of an American soldier shooting a Vietcong in the head pointblank. Bowie's message to the world is: with the human psyche being what it is, you can never trust humans to treat their subordinates in a civilized manner. You must make sure they are not put in a position where they have control over others. When he sings the line "I'll give you men who want to rule the world", he sings "wants" instead of "want", and it sounds like he is dismissing the age-old colonial dream of world domination, asking "who wants to rule the world?"

The message, however, is delivered in a softened and disarming way. True to Let's Dance form, the song is turned into a dance-floor smash, with a rhythm you can get lost in and miss the entire meaning. The faux-Chinese riff can be heard as another example of Western culture incorporating Oriental culture, but it sounds more like just a fun little riff. When Bowie reaches the violent climax, he doesn't let himself go wild like Iggy does, but keeps his distance from those feelings. In the video, the woman bursts into tension-killing laughter after his violent outburst, as if it was nothing but a nightmare, and they immediately fall to bed to transform it into sex. The video does deliver the message, but does it in rather soft images (or it would not have been shown on MTV), and the overall experience is not nearly as frightening as Iggy's original version. Bowie has become a mainstream artist now, and he has to compromise.

<-next

הוספת תגובה

נשארו 150 תוים
נשארו 1500 תוים

תגובה אחת

© כל הזכויות לתוכן המופיע בדף זה שייכות ל אלדינסיין אלא אם צויין אחרת