Are you tasked with hosting a Halloween party this year? Let us help you with the music.
Howl you doing boys and girls? What's up, my witches?
Spooky season is drawing nearer, and with Halloween falling on a Thursday this year, it means that there is only one weekend to curate a spooktacular party playlist, and one opportunity to throw a fa-boo-lous Halloween party. It is no easy task, but if you want your guests to shake their BOOty, eat, drink, and be scary all night long, Popdust has just the playlist that will give your friends pumpkin' to talk about.
Itsy Bitsy Spider by Carly Simon
Have you ever heard such an elegant and moving interpretation of this spooky nursery rhyme? In this version, I wasn't rooting for the rain to "wash the spider out"; instead, Simon's mash up of the nursery rhyme with her hit "Comin Around Again" paints a darker picture. "I know nothing stays the same, but if you're willing to play the game, it's coming around again," Simon sings. The Spider's journey is a complex one: He is tenacious in his dream of scaling the water spout and is an inspiration to us all. "Nothing stays the same," little Spider, keep climbing. One day, you may just turn your dream into a reality. It's a reminder of our mortality and serves as the perfect song to kick off the night as your guests eat hors d'oeuvres and pour their first cup of spiked punch.
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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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At some point, mysterious forces convinced you these two genres were hopelessly lame. Let us de-program you.
Somewhere along the road of our musical acculturation, we were set upon by various forces, both sinister and benign.
They told us what to like and what to shun, lest we lose standing in whatever playground social circle we occupied. Various sub-genres of hip-hop, r&b, and rock were cool, while country music meant permanent exile.
But jazz and classical were so far down the musical food chain that there wasn't even a need to be warned away from them by your supposed betters: there was an unspoken understanding that these genres were simply not up for consideration.
But it didn't use to be this way: swing jazz was the EDM of its day, and on the cobblestones of 19th Century London and Paris, wigged, saber-carrying fops could often be seen listening through their carved ivory headphones to Chopin, Schumann, Bach. But somewhere along our collective cultural evolution, a shift took place.
Perhaps, as you grew older, you even recognized the importance jazz and classical music once had and saw that it influenced modern music in inextricable ways, but having shunned it your whole life, simply didn't know where to begin listening. To help you finally access these two woefully neglected genres, we've created an introduction guide to classical and jazz music for the modern music lover.
It's best to approach jazz and classical music like a novice outdoorsman: eager, but wary in the face of the unknown. So, let's start with a metaphorical stroll across a sunlit field before we try to scale any musical mountains.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart may seem like an obvious suggestion, being one of a small handful of classical composers almost everybody can name, but the genius from Salzburg can't be matched for immediate accessibility and fun — especially his 27 piano concertos, the musical equivalent of quiet meadow strolls. Among his best are the 9th, 20th-24th and 27th. Runners-up: Ludwig Van Beethoven (symphonies 3, 7, 9), Frederic Chopin (piano works, especially the Ballades).
Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat major, K. 271, 'Jeunehomme' (Murray Perahia) www.youtube.com
Likewise, the music of New York saxophone legend Sonny Rollins is the perfect jazz counterpart to Mozart: ebullient, personable, and a seemingly endless fount of melodic invention. Career highlights include Newk's Time, A Night at the Village Vanguard, The Bridge and Saxophone Colossus. Runners-up: Charlie Parker (assorted recordings for the Verve label), Clifford Brown (recordings co-led with drummer Max Roach), Bill Evans (Live at the Village Vanguard, Waltz For Debby).
Tune Up - Sonny Rollins www.youtube.com
Discarding the hiking analogy, let's pretend you're a tattoo artist who has just graduated from inking pig hides and moved on to his foolhardy friends eager to score a free tattoo, no matter how bad the result.
In jazz terms, this step could reasonably be embodied by several artists, but the one that springs most readily to mind is Charles Mingus. The composer/bass player's music, influenced by the giants of both swing and bebop, is wooly, unpredictable, and irascible - but with feet planted firmly in tradition. Essential Mingus includes Mingus Ah Um, Pithecanthropus Erectus and The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady. Runners-up: Eric Dolphy (Iron Man, Out To Lunch), mid-60s Miles Davis (E.S.P., Miles Smiles, Miles in the Sky), Roland Kirk (Rip, Rig, and Panic, The Inflated Tear).
Charles Mingus - The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (Full Album) www.youtube.com
We're dealing here with rough equivalencies, and candidates for Mingus' classical counterpart for the novice listener are legion, but you'll struggle to find better than Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. Putting aside his most famous work, a mega-hit (by classical standards) called Peter and the Wolf, Prokofiev updates the emotionally turbulent Romantic-era (Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, etc.) classical model, adding to it dissonance, extreme dynamic shifts, and almost jazzy rhythmic complexity. Major works include his five piano concertos, a violin concerto, symphonies 1 and 3 and Romeo & Juliet. Runners-up: Claude Debussy (piano works, La Mer, Maurice Ravel (Bolero, piano concertos, his string quartet in F major), Gustav Mahler (symphonies 5 and 9), Benjamin Britten (piano concerto), Samuel Barber (Adagio For Strings).
Prokofiev-Romeo and Juliet www.youtube.com
Shifting analogies yet again, now imagine that you've spent a few years cage-diving with enormous, blood-thirsty great white sharks and you're getting bored. You ask yourself, "Why not venture outside the cage?"
The classical music equivalent of swimming with sharks is Hungarian Bela Bartok, a bona fide modern genius. His output was scary and disquieting - and highly original. As points of entry into his extraordinary, but difficult, body of work, look no further than Concerto for Orchestra and Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste. Runners-up: Igor Stravinsky (Rite of Spring, Firebird Suite), Dmitri Shostakovich (piano concerto no. 2, symphonies 5, 10). Alberto Ginastera (piano concertos).
Béla Bartók - Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta www.youtube.com
The late 1950s and 1960s were, to put it lightly, a turbulent time for America. That instability was reflected in the music of the day, particularly jazz. Several figures emerged as leaders of the music's new wave, but Ornette Coleman is probably the best example. The Texas-born alto saxophonist shares at least one trait with Bartok: both mined and mutated traditional folk idioms from their respective countries. Coleman leaped right out of the gate: his first handful of recordings were like clarion calls, announcing the coming of a new order to a world thoroughly taken by surprise. These include The Shape Of Jazz To Come, Free Jazz, The Art Of The Improvisers, Ornette! and Ornette On Tenor, all recorded between 1959 and 1961. Runners-up: John Coltrane (A Love Supreme, Sun Ship, Transitions), Cecil Taylor (Unit Structures). Circle (Paris Concert). Dave Holland (Conference of the Birds).
The Ornette Coleman Double Quartet - Free Jazz www.youtube.com
And with Coleman and Bartok ends this brief detour off the crowded highway of popular music and down the winding side road of jazz-and-classical. If you found it instructive, consider sharing your new wisdom with others, or simply be content to luxuriate in your newly expanded musical universe.
Matt Fink lives and works in Brooklyn. Go to organgrind.com for more of his work.
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