Let RKS remind you what live music is supposed to be.
One day you're listening to your usual assortment of experimental synth music and whale noises, maybe a little Kero Kero Bonito if it's sunny out.
In a good mood, you decide to branch out, and a song comes on your discover weekly that you don't recognize. You bob your head along to the beat, and wonder who the band is, thinking they must be deliciously obscure. You reach for your phone to save the track, and recoil at the glitter-sprinkled name: Rainbow Kitten Surprise. The name sounds distinctly like the name of your seven-year-old niece's Guitar Hero band, but you find that in reality it refers to a group of hairy men from Boone, North Carolina who play an amalgamation of indie and folk rock. Even worse than their name, they have millions of plays. They're popular and kitschy and unacceptable for someone like you who only shops at organic co-ops in your vintage Doc Martens. You move on to the next song.
A week or so later, you're in a Williamsburg bar that you have to enter through a secret fake refrigerator door, and the bartender plays a song, and, liking it, you ask who the band is. They tell you. It's Rainbow Kitten Surprise. You throw your drink at the bartender and walk out in disgust. But on your way home to your Bushwick loft you hesitantly search the band's name on Spotify. But you think, What if someone sees my Spotify? Should I risk it?
But you do, and soon, with enough exposure, you find yourself willing to ignore the band name in exchange for more of Sam Melo's distinctive, folk-rock voice. You start to recognize the exceptional quality of the bass lines and the burningly poignant, playful lyrics that characterize nearly every song. No, they don't have much edge, in fact, they're often persistently uplifting. You keep your new passion to yourself for awhile, sure that it's just a neurological blip. A music aficionado like yourself would never like a band with such a gimmicky name and earnest vibe. You liked Billie Eilish before she was big, dammit, you read Pitchfork like the Bible, and you proudly tell people at parties that your favorite band is Deerhunter. You once said, "Die Antwoord is too mainstream for me," and meant it. How can you love Rainbow Kitten Surprise?
But soon, your roommate knows the words to "Goodnight Chicago" just from hearing it through your bedroom wall. You semi-seriously consider getting lyrics from "First Class" tattooed somewhere hidden on your body, just for you to see. You begin to mention the band hesitantly to strangers, maybe even a few close friends at the anarchist bookstore you frequent, and find you aren't alone in your devotion. You begin to believe the joyfully meaningless name is the perfect, thoughtless collection of words to describe the genre defying band. Afterall, they don't abide by the structural or sonic rules that govern most of the label-made music that tops modern charts. You start to feel strongly that they're a band in the way so many bands don't feel like bands anymore: you can hear the spontaneity of ideas from rehearsal in every song; every track evolves unexpectedly, and every musician is audible, present, and indispensable, singing loud backup vocals and allowing instruments to compete with and complement the lead vocals.
By Matthew Salacuse
Flash forward, three months. You bought tickets for the "How to: Friend, Love, Freefall" tour and pushed your way through the crowd until you're right up against the stage. You're openly weeping as Ethan Goodpastor leans towards you as he shreds the intro to "Devil Like Me." Your kitten ears are firmly clipped into your hair, your t-shirt proudly displays the band name that you once questioned, but has become a part of your musical identity. You proudly post pic after pic of Sam Melo's energetic, bizarre dance moves on your Instagram story. The concert is a transcendent experience that leaves you full of energy for days to follow. They play their classic hits but they also cover their new album — debatably their best yet — and every band member is visibly enjoying themselves as much as the crowd. When Darrick "Bozzy" Keller joins Sam Melo on vocals and the two lean together, eyes locked, you wonder if this is your peak, if you'll exist forever in this moment, watching lights play through Melo's magnificent beard. Watching them perform, you think of how they exist as an antithesis to bands like Maroon 5, that churn out songs that are overplayed after one spin. Rainbow Kitten Surprise lets songs fall from their fingers in whatever weird and wonderful way they happen to emerge, ultimately reminding their audience what live music is supposed to feel like.
At this point in your obsession, you've even stopped exclusively referring to the band as RKS, instead, you proudly say their full, glorious name. In fact, you shout it at the top of your lungs as Hammerstein Ballroom finally goes dark and the band exits the stage to frantic screams for an encore: Rainbow Kitten Surprise, mother fucker.
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Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.
Villains always have the best outfits.
From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.
Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com
But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.
Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.
Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.
Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com
Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.
As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.
History of Nazi Chic
For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.
The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.
Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it
Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.
The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com
Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.
Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.
Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com
Nazi Chic in Asia
Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.
A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.
In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.
OF COURSE. i.imgur.com
That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.
In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.
So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?
The answer is not so black and white.
On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.
But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.
Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.
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Summer Walker returns and is no longer playing games.
Summer Walker loves creating music but despises the music industry.
She regularly considers retirement and ended her 2019 tour early because of social anxiety. "I hope that people understand and respect that at the end of the day I'm a person, I have feelings, I get tired, I get sad," she said in a video post. "I don't want to lose myself for someone else." She was relentlessly vilified for her decision. Fans cited stiff meet-and-greets and chalked up Walker's cancellations to a sense of entitlement.
Then she was presented with the "Best New Artist" award at the 2019 Soul Train Awards, and her hurried acceptance speech was dissected by tasteless memes all across the country. Walker's candid cries for understanding remained completely ignored by years end. The truth of the matter is that Walker suffers from anxiety and stage fright that is all but totally crippling. So she did what any misunderstood artist does, she disappeared and stopped saying anything at all.