Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Sexual Mystery & Mastery of Nadia Oh

Nadia Oh may be a tough nut for a lot of folks to crack, but it's clear that if anyone has Nadia Oh figured out, it's Nadia Oh. Fans, critics and foolish detractors have expended a great deal of energy grappling with this seeming anomaly of contemporary dance music (does she "get it?" is she mindless or brilliant? where the crap did this come from? does she even exist?). Meanwhile, Nadia Oh chuckles to herself and every so often unleashes a new musical creation upon the world that inevitably plays perfectly to the qualities that make her irresistible. Yet because the only one not at least somewhat baffled by Nadia Oh's appeal is Nadia Oh, she exercises her game instinctively, drawing no attention to the springs and gears because she already knows how it works and isn't trying to pull a fast one, at least not in this respect. Whether you consider that a product of cluelessness or unabashed natural expertise depends, I suppose, on how much of a sexist asshole you are, but see Nadia Oh has no more problem with sexist assholes than adoring EDM feminists - be it beats, balls or boobs, Nadia Oh simply has something for everybody.

Suck on it.
Frankly, the sooner one decides to abandon the quest for a foolproof, fully agreeable rationale for enjoying Nadia Oh and simply absorb the glorious noise she makes, the better. Not everything Nadia Oh has released is great; a chunk of it isn't even that good (most of this chunk precedes the masterpiece "Taking Over the Dancefloor," from her second album, Colours). But a lot of it is pretty fantastic, and over time a larger portion of her work has been of the "rather good" variety, as is customary with young artists progressively mastering more and more of their art. Oh's latest single, "Slapper (Ayye)," is the best thing she's released since the original demo for "No Bueno" (that the balls-out introductory moombahton melee was severed from the final album cut is simply criminal), and also (or perhaps because of it) the biggest departure from the pattern of work leading up to it. After the tropical, moombahton and dubstep explorations of Colours, "Slapper (Ayye)" is a bass-busting, hip-hop infused dance track that wouldn't be out of place on the first half of Nicki Minaj's latest album.

This isn't exactly a wild left turn; Diplo, who also played with moombahton and dubstep throughout 2011, has similarly shifted to dance-inspired urban beats this year in his work for Wale, Usher, Lil Wayne, and Chris Brown. Actually, Nadia Oh and Diplo have quite a bit in common as musicians, a statement that might rankle a lot of dance music elite but that I suspect Diplo, a devoted academic of music as well as preternaturally gifted DJ/producer, would both understand and accept. And this is where one of the big issues about Nadia Oh raises its head: why is it so immediately objectionable to suggest that Nadia Oh and Diplo are on an equal plane as musicians? Both have created some of the best experimental dance/electronic music of the past couple years, and both have demonstrated similar grasp of many of the same fringe subgenres. But one of them is unnervingly and flagrantly a sex object, doesn't talk much about her work, and has considerably sized breasts, and the other is a dude; in this world, especially that of dance/electronica, only one of those people is allowed to be considered a respected artistic leader, and it's not the one with the nice rack. As Esthera Sarita repeats throughout Sak Noel's boob-tastic "Loca People" (apparently acceptable because the bosoms exploited do not actually belong to the musician), what the fuck?

Anyone familiar with Nadia Oh's previous videos will find "Slapper (Ayye)" to be exactly what one would expect it to be. It lacks the aggressive rebelliousness of "Taking Over the Dancefloor" and the tongue-in-cheek visual wit of "No Bueno," but then so does the song it services. There is nothing whatsoever objectionable about watching Nadia Oh (who, not inappropriately, is starting to resemble the queen mother of electro/dance diva/bitches, Luciana - see below) trying on dozens of different outfits for two and a half minutes, especially with that sizzling hot club thumper playing behind it.

Guess what? I'm still hot.
This video is about more than clothes, though. While Oh has played dumb in previous videos and maintained a sense of ambiguity as to whether her ridiculousness was accidental or intentional, in "Slapper (Ayye)" she is unquestionably in charge. See how thoroughly she assembles the wide variety of stereotypical images not just of female sexuality, but specifically the designed eroticism of stereotypical representations of female sexuality (the telling fact that these are often if not always the creations of the male mind is suggested if not belabored). Oh has always made a lot of eye contact in her conversational videos, but it was generally a subservient sort of relationship she had with the viewer; never before has her gaze been so authoritative as it is here, marking a clear shift in power from (ostensibly) the viewer to the performer. Nadia Oh would not be the first woman to start off playing dumb only to wrest control from her audience once it had grown to a sufficient size; Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga, and Ke$ha certainly come to mind as recent success stories. Men are so, so dumb.

Of course, as passionate as I might be in my defensiveness of Nadia Oh, to carry on defending her would ultimately doing her the disservice of suggesting she needs defending in the first place. So I'll leave you with the new video for "Slapper (Ayye)," a seemingly subtle entry in Nadia Oh's videography that I suspect will prove to have been a significant turning point in this fascinating artist's career. As of the present, Nadia Oh has handily continued taking over the dancefloor, lad mag tits and all, and she's shown no intention of giving it up any time soon. If it's a bad thing having this girl running the show, then this is a world in which I refuse to live.


Nadia Oh's latest single "Slapper (Ayye)" is available on Amazon. Her most recent album, Colours, featuring "Taking Over the Dancefloor" and "No Bueno," is available on iTunes and Amazon.

Nadia Oh on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube

Thanks to Taking Over the Universe for the initial video find. 
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