Various Production’s remix of Adele’s “Chasing Pavements” and working class entertainment: aestheticizing the struggle?

various-red-ready.jpgAn early contender for song of the year. Words after the break, but first the mp3s.

 

Adele-Chasing Pavements (Various Remix)

Roll Deep-Flying Away (Ft. Alex Mills)

I wasn’t as into Various Production’s first album as I’d hoped[1], but on their Myspace right now is a remix of Adele’s “Chasing Pavements.” The song itself is stunning, and should silence any haters talking about the “new Amy Winehouse’s” “maturity.”

 

The song is suffused with what seems to me like a kind of conflicted agony/ecstasy sentiment of the working class condition (of which I have no personal experience), stuck between finding joy in the oppressive quotidian grind and elaborating the euphoria of feeling on the edge of breaking out of it and risking justifying or sustaining that oppression by aestheticizing it. This is the same conflict of dramas like “The Office,” that by chronicling oppression and offering entertainment that makes it livable for those suffering in it they risk being its greatest rationalizer, performing maintenance on the system.

 

The UK seems especially good at evoking this proletarianism, The Office being an obvious pick but also especially Roll Deep’s debut “In at the Deep End.” Roll Deep is the grime collective that Wiley (was?) in and Dizzee Rascal was briefly a member. Their album, though, was polished and very melodic, a pop record in every way, and not really terribly “grimy.” Many of the songs on the album deal as much with a blue collar existence as an alienated estate (suburb, ghetto) existence where one is totally excluded from the legitimate labor market.

 

The Various remix is also in the vein of the closing of Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, which ends with an extended take of Pam Grier behind the wheel of a car with Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street” playing.

 

This doesn’t appear to be an officially commissioned remix; Various seems to put up remixes in an intentionally haphazard fashion, perhaps to humbly downplay expectations. This song is put up simply as “chasingpavments,” and the (sic) here may be the point. There is also a sort of coda of another, shorter remix, “shouldI,” which further cuts up “Chasing Pavements.” The continuous jet of synths and the tiny vocal cuts, as well as the way that Various lets the virgin sample play out in full at the end, recall the best of The micro house artist The Field’s 2007 album “From Here We Go to Sublime,”[2]

 

The video as well is spectacular, and it makes the interesting move of putting Adele in a specular position, watching rather than participating. I also wonder, though, whether this might stem from an ongoing elision of Adele’s body, given that it may not fit strict aesthetic guidelines for the vampiric male gaze. Even Adele’s face is in shadow on the album cover, though obviously these choices could have been made by Adele personally for many different reasons.

Still and all, art from and for a proletarian position seems necessary in order to combat postmodernism’s comfort with representing only the lives of the rich and educated. The middle ground of this track, a middle ground between complete alienation and luxurious comfort that is not really middle class, seems a space worthy of extended exploration.


[1] The standard criticism of dubstep full lengths, as with many other singles-based genres is that their LPs are just the 12”s padded with filler, and this wasn’t the case with the Various debut, The World is Gone, it was just that the thing was so maudlin that much of it felt juvenile to me, and the first track was exactly what I wanted from the album, really heavy dubstep with post-apocalyptic vocals and some of the best bass programming I’ve ever heard. Then it transitions into folk, and the transition was just too jarring. I went back recently and listened to the album starting with the second track, and liked it much more even if it does descend later on into just too much maudlin. Anyway, apparently Various has mostly ditched dubstep, but this single is also far away from the weepy goth folk of the first release, even though that aesthetic did create some great moments on the album.

 

[2] The best reviewed album of last year (and my #7, don’t know if this makes me lame or not), according to metacritic.com (Burial finished at #2, the respective averages being 89 and 90).

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