CALVIN HARRIS, “SUMMER” – EMIL NAVA. I’m trying to figure out why Calvin Harris videos always fill me with so much contempt for humanity, and I’m pretty sure it all comes down to the above screen shot. It loses much of its rhythmic potency without motion (EDM Video Ho pumps champagne bottle to the post-drop beat) but we don’t believe in GIFs here so you’ll have to suffer through the video yourself to get the full effect (it’s somewhere around 3:23). Emil Nava’s clip follows the classic EDM video mold (Emil Nava may have invented the classic EDM video mold): a series of brooding, disconnected, generally sexy scenes from pre-drop life, slowly building in intensity and sexiness, and finally exploding into The Best Dance Party Ever. The Best Dance Party Ever always features boundless joy (“ecstastic” joy, one might say) – celebration on a spiritual level, Putting Your Hands Up as apotheosis. The day-to-day troubles (unfulfilled brooding sexiness) evaporate and sexy people all the world over give in to the deindividuating power of the bass. Everyone is so happy. Because there are cool lights. And fog. And a swimming pool maybe. And Calvin Harris. And a high ponytailed model pumping champagne to the beat.
The portrayal of transcendent happiness is hard to resist, especially when conveyed through super sexy people and a rising synth hook that I’ve been trained to lyrically associate with being in love in the summertime or something like that (particularly potent in this loveless, never-ending winter). I want to be at the Best Dance Party Ever. I want to hang out with Calvin Harris and drink champagne from the rhythmically pumped arms of a model in jean shorts. But, simultaneously, I experience the dual trauma of a.) knowing that this will never, ever happen to me, and b.) thinking that all of this is really fucking stupid. Because it is – this song is super generic, raves are disgusting, party drugs are bad for you, and beautiful people usually suck. Look at this model’s face – look at that moronic, this-is-so-much-fun, molly-is-a-like-religious-experience, I-want-to-be-objectified smile. Imagine her champagne bottle bopping up and down to the regimented, faux-transcendent, four-to-the-floor beat. Look at the bro behind her on the staircase, next to the other super sexy girl who’s also probably wearing jean shorts. Doesn’t that make you want to vomit? Doesn’t that make you want to be there too?
Everything about this is so actively wrong, but Emil Nava makes it so compelling that all it can inspire in me is a weird mixture of misanthropy and self-loathing. I think – this is unfounded but I’m pretty sure I’m right – that there’s a culturally Marxist slant in EDM music that subconsciously affirms reduction to bodily utility and treats subservience to regimentation as transcendence. That’s gross. I think that videos like this present a particular type of wasteful culture that, unlike gloriously wasteful cultures (i.e. hip hop), has a horrifying emptiness to its waste – nothing beautiful, nothing funny, nothing real, no community. That’s gross. I think the women in this video are reduced to objects and then treated as idols of spirtual reverence despite the fact that they’re not given the opportunity to express a single bit of personality. That’s gross. I think all of this supports a vacant, soulless, dead-sex- and synthetic-drug-fueled, #YOLO-in-the-worst-sense culture of Last-Man nihilism. That’s really gross. But Emil Nava makes me want it. Because it’s sexy and fun and there’s bass and champagne.
There’s one moment in this video that I genuinely love. It’s even more motion-based than the champagne bit, but it might actually be worth it to figure out how to make a GIF for this one because it’s so slap-happy enjoyable. At 3:35 there’s a model (maybe the same model) in unstrapped red overalls sitting on the hood of a tricked-out Cadillac, getting bounced by hydraulics along to the beat. It’s so moronically dumb, but for whatever reason I can get behind that. Maybe because it’s a clever trick I’ve never seen before. Maybe because the hydraulics synch up so admirably to the music. But I think what it comes down to is her joy in the legitimate lack of physical control that she’s experiencing in that moment. There’s something tangibly transcendent (in the lowest sense of the word) in getting bopped around by a large and powerful external force. In a situation like that one has no choice but to be an object and to give into that objectivity with either horror or joy. She’s at the mercy of rubber and gravity for a few seconds, and she loves it. That’s nice.
Cut back ten seconds to maybe that same model, pumping her champagne, only this time at the mercy of Calvin Harris’s computer. It’s the same thing. Nothing matters. Everything is fun. All vibes are chemically certified good. This is The Point – EDM presents an experience of transcendent deindividuation that, once submitted to, brings about the same joy as that of being bopped up and down by the hood of a hydraulic Cadillac. But there’s a worrisome lack of risk in that gamble, a dependent faith in nihilism and the weightlessness of fun. What are you giving yourself over to at the Best Dance Party Ever? Calvin Harris’s computer. And what is your giving-over itself? A beautiful vacant smile.