Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Girls Gone Wild ... in a Feminist, Self-Empowering Kind of Way

Allee Willis has been an avatar of social and sociable consciousness for as long as I can remember. Back in the day, associated with A&M Records and hits, like it says in her bio, she has collaborated with Bob Dylan, James Brown, Herbie Hancock and countless other music luminaries. A GRAMMY® winner for soundtrack music for 1985’s Beverly Hills Cop (a #1 album), Willis is one of contemporary music’s most prolific songwriters. Her first-ever musical -- with master arranger Stephen Bray -- the Oprah Winfrey-produced The Color Purple, opened in December ’05 on Broadway and is touring the country.

This is about her latest project, in her persona as "Bubbles the Artist" (http://www.bubblestheartist.com/) along with Gnarls Barkley voice Holly Palmer (who inhabits Cheesecake). Their combined efforts manifest as http://www.bubblesandcheesecake.com/. This is a genuine web-Youtube-cyber-phenomenon whose funky graphics in a rubadub style are moving rapidly through space and time.

The video was revealed to me by my friend and promo man extraordinaire Henry Eshelman. Its subject matter is empowerment for women, powered by a funky groove and some lovely cutout-collage animation. It has the Willis signature look and the implied message of girls gotta have fun. In the process, the Youtube notoriety brought out the comments in people and thus a controversy was born.

“This was written purely as a pop soul song; not at all political,” says Willis. “It does talk about how sometimes women have trouble standing up for themselves, but it’s really about self-esteem for everyone – about having enough of a sense of yourself to claim what’s right for you.”

Palmer commented, “I was very surprised at the anger out there directed at a couple of people having fun. In a way, it goes right to the heart of what we’re talking about with Bubbles & Cheesecake – everybody has the right to their own voice, no matter what resistance it meets.” Willis added, “It’s no wonder many women are afraid to express themselves, given some of the comments we’ve seen.

“It’s crazy being in the middle of an unintended controversy,” Willis concludes, “but the greatest thing our art can do is spotlight something that’s not working in the culture, and point to things that are more positive. It’s a hard position for us to be in, because all you want to do is make art. But we also feel we must be doing significant work if we’ve hit such a nerve with this song.”

And so, without further ado, the song ...