The Flaming Lips + Erykah Badu: = WTF! Art and Responsibility!


Art is a term that describes a diverse range of human activities and the products of those activities, but here refers to the visual arts, which cover the creation of images or objects in fields including painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and other visual media  –Oxford University Press


Greetings beautiful people

So if you’re hip with urban sensibilities then you’ve probably seen the video by The Flaming Lips and Erykah Badu collaboration for “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”.  As a visual artist, with very liberal views on what I like and taste that border on the grotesque at times, I will say this video was one of the most visually unappealing things I’ve seen in a while.

My friends and I use the term “doing way too much” to describe that which we find to be over embellished.  That’s exactly what this video does.  As a glutton for punishment (you know I like that sh*t!), I’ve watched the video multiple times, to see if it’s my narrow minded view of art that prevents me from digging it.  I mean it’s got nudity, glitter, blood, and semen!  I should love it right?  No.

I don’t dislike the video because of the disturbing images or anything of that nature.  I find that I dislike the video because two black artists, who should have known better, participated in this.  I’m referring to Erykah Badu and her sister Nyrok.

To refer back to my “Race Blog” a while ago, there has emerged a new media blitzkrieg on the image of blacks over the last few years.  If you are black and conscious, then you’ve seen it.  If you’re black and not conscious, then you have still seen it!

I feel we have to be careful, especially now during an election year, of the images we as blacks put out in the media.  Now while my personal work deals with conveying images of black strength and beauty; I don’t feel all people should share my artistic sensibilities.  Yet I do feel everyone should be responsible and own the image they convey to the world.

Looking at this video I was disappointed that Erykah Badu even considered doing this project, with the treatment that was proposed to her.  I’ve read that she’s been going back and forth lately with Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips about the video.  From what I’ve read and the things she’s posted via twitter/other social media, she doesn’t seem to be taking ownership of any of her participation in this work.  Sure, I know her sister did the nude scenes with glitter, blood, and semen, but Badu suggested to the band, that her sister do this!

Now while I think Wayne and his band are nuts for this video, I do agree that The Flaming Lips didn’t hold a gun to Badu’s head and make her or her sister do this.  To be frank, these women became the new Venus Hottentot!  They became women claiming to make art, when really they were put on display in the worst ways any women can be portrayed, especially a black one.  I mean come on!  You don’t even see that much semen in porn movies!

This was not a good look for Erykah Badu.  Yes I know her sister is partially to blame, but her sister is not the star, she’s just the body double in this case.  This video represented Erykah Badu!  Not even The Flaming Lips really!

So here is the thing:  As an artist, I feel 100% certain that Badu and The Lips had the right to make this video.  I am 100% certain that this is art!  Does the video have meaning?  I think so.

Here is my interpretation:  “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”

It looks to me that this may be a film about a virginal experience.  Erykah is in the tub being the image of purity etc.  When she stands up nude and slaps herself with glitter at one of the crashes, I feel that’s her thinking the sexual experience will be cosmic or out of this world.  The glitter represents the stars, cosmos, etc.  When the blood comes, I think this is to represent, what maybe a real life first sexual experience is.  It’s often times, pain, and blood.  It’s not the romanticized version we see in movies.  Then finally with the semen, this is an over done interpretation of what sex really is.  In its simplest terms it’s the exchange of bodily fluids.  Those are my thoughts about the video’s meaning.

To digress, yes I feel this is a serious work of art that is valid in all the ways that makes something art.  Do I feel its high art, in terms of modern taste?  No.  I find it quite tasteless and seem to be created for shock value.  I also feel it’s a video that further degrades the image of the black woman.  Erykah Badu come on!  We got to do better and find more creative ways to be edgy without being ridiculously subversive.

The last time Badu started a trend, damn near ever sista I saw, started rocking head wraps and curtains for dresses.  The last thing I want to see is women (much less out of shape ones) thinking it’s cool to go around naked slapping their asses with glitter, red #5, or that creamy icing they put on top of Cinnabons (ooohh Cinnabon!)

So in conclusion….yes I think the video is a work of art, but an irresponsible one!  Any artist who believes they are not responsible for their audiences experience is either lying, ignorant, or a f*cking idiot.  I don’t feel The Flaming Lips or Erykah Badu are either of these things.

Till next time

Yo brotha



If you haven’t seen the video and enjoyed being disturbed, then here you go


4 thoughts on “The Flaming Lips + Erykah Badu: = WTF! Art and Responsibility!

  1. This was another great blog, Pooks. I saw the video for the first time today from your link and I spent so much time laughing at the utter ridiculousness of it all (I mean, spit-yo-water-out-and-try-not-to-choke gut-splitting laughter), that I couldn’t even waste the mental energy on the political incorrectness of this cinematic nightmare. This was straight up trash, from the vocals to the actual video. But, it was the best piece of comedy for another manic Monday. I am so happy that I finally saw this!

  2. PS: I don’t even know what all the fuss is about. Every woman dreams of having a glittery, bloody, semen filled snatch, right?!! Erykah is a FOOL for this mess!! I mean a straight up clown for this epic level of irresponsibility.

  3. sean says:

    ‎@ a LOST for any “ART” in THIS Day & AGE of HIV/AIDs/BLACK WOman… to have such IMAGEs with: any WOman covered in RED Liquid &/or ANY1 with a WHITE CREAMy substance coming in their MOUTH &/or over/on their BODy i’m too FULL to INTELLIGENTly ARTiculate all i WANT to SAY without getn EMOTIONal

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