World Beat, Move Your Feet: What Flag Do You Wave?

July 22, 2010

So, as though around me know, I’ve been pretty obsessed with K’naan’s “Wavin Flag” ever since I visited friends in Michigan. Well, after some exploring today (commonly known as Wikipedia-ing)

U.S.A.: Wavin Flag – K’naan

LATIN AMERICA/SPAIN: Bandera de Libertad – K’naan and David Bisbal

CHINA: 旗开得胜 (Success in a single move) – K’naan with Jackie Cheung and Jane Zhang

BRAZIL: Comemorar – K’naan ft. Skank

ARAB WORLD: Wavin’ Flag/Shagga’ Bi Alamak – K’naan w/ Nancy Ajram

FRANCE: Wavin Flag – K’naan w/ Féfé

GREECE: “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan and Professional Sinnerz feat. Komis X

HAITI: “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan and MikaBen

HUNGARY: “Nálunk van a labda” – anchors and sport reporters of Magyar Televízió

INDIA: “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan and Jasim

INDONESIA: “Wavin’ Flag (Semangat Berkibar)” by K’naan and Ipang

ITALY: “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan ft. Mr. Blaza and MagicEmy

JAPAN: “Wavin’ Flag” (Japanese: ウェイヴィン・フラッグ) by K’naan and Ai

MONGOLIA: “Wavin’ Flag” – P.Bayartsengel, D.Anu, E.Solongo and E.Soyombo

NIGERIA: “Wavin’ Flag (Naija Remix)” by K’naan and Banky W. & M.I.

RUSSIA: “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan and St1m

SRI LANKA: “Wavin’ Flag/Ekama Irak Yata” by K’naan, remixed by Pradeep

THAILAND: “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan and Tattoo Colour

VIETNAM: “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan and Phương Vy

SO to:

  • Brazil for the “Oh oh oh oh oh Bra-zil!”
  • the Arab World vid for the guitar on the off beats
  • France for changing the “oh” chant
  • Greece for super subdivision low bass
  • Hungary for being made by a television network
  • India for best dancing
  • Italy’s Mr. Blaza for best rap
  • Japan’s Ai for best duet and recording session video
  • Mongolia for most humorous dance emphasis while singing at :49+
  • Nigeria for best vocals
  • Russia for random autotuning???
  • Thailand for most impressive video and remix of song (though the tempo is a bit much)
  • Germany for not having one?

In all seriousness, this production does call up some questions. I enjoyed seeing the “pop imperialism” of the English language, as almost every duet had some of K’naan’s original English, either sung by him or the new performers, regardless of the national language of the new country. Also, I’m curious how they navigated adopting the song for each country. Was instrumentation considered? What about countries with notably different scalar systems for some of the popular music (Indonesia?)? Is there something about the original that makes it particularly adaptable/powerful to become so popular, or can we blame it on world cup fever (which thankfully replaced Bieber fever for a while)?

Are there other songs out there that have been tied to world sporting events or other megaevents that have spurred remixes in different countries? Can we look forward to more of these as remix culture takes over?

I sure hope so.



It’s the Dirty North Mix: 所以我不怕 歌词

July 10, 2010

So one of the original goals of working with this blog was to keep track of research that I’m doing on the world of Chinese rap (particularly out of Beijing, or, affectionately, BJ).

The Dirty North Mixtape, from all accounts of internet chatter, appears to be one of the most popular/mainstream rap albums out in China recently. Now, my Chinese skills always need some work, but as of now I am unable to find a set of reliable lyrics for the album, let alone complete lyrics for each song.

Part of the research I am pursuing relates to how the rappers codeswitch between English and Mandarin (and in some cases dialects?). I’m curious what considerations Mandarin creates for the rappers, and how they navigate relating it to English.

Dirty North is a duo of Lil Ray (aka Naughty Ray, aka Nasty Ray) and LaoZheng (aka Phoenix XIV aka 老郑). Lil Ray is a BJ native, while LaoZheng (real name Jeremy) is from Alabama.

The stand out song from the album is “所以我不怕” which samples Mims’ “This is Why I’m Hot” from 2007.

I’m posting lyrics with hopes/the off chance other listeners will stop by and contribute. I’ll update and revise them as I go through it more carefully. For now, lines ending in a question mark denote real/known trouble spots. (and, of course, more songs to come as time warrants)



















This is why I’m hot



I got work on the street/strip?



yeah, but



我带你去找 Oz














隐藏Bad Blood



 (Nasty Ray!)

名字叫 hip-hop

Never give up, never don’t stop

这就为什么 they say I’m hot?



团结湖 my block
不管什么 调儿 

I don’t give a fuck

Shut up










Under the Pop Big Top

May 30, 2010

Finals are now over and I’m back from being out of town, so here’s a new post. Summer in Madison appears very promising, particular in the grilling, beer, and ice cream departments.

Christina Aguilera’s single “WooHoo” ft. Nicki Minaj leaked and then was released on iTunes off her upcoming album “Bionic” (more on that later), which reminded me of some thoughts I had surrounding her Back To Basics album awhile back.

In the early 1900s circuses would tour across the nation, setting up tents and performing before packing Jumbo up on a train and caravanning to the next town (see animal crackers boxes). Popular music had a tight connection to the circus that is still heard today. Many circuses had organists that would play waltzes (something that Tin Pan Alley took up and embraced for a while).

Then a whole bunch of other stuff happened to popular music.

Then we began to reference circuses again. The first reference I can think of off the top of my head for circuses in modern pop music is “Wyclef Jean Presents the Carnival” in 1997, followed up recently with “Carnival, Vol. 2: Memoirs of an Immigrant.”

On her 2004 Re-Invention Tour, Madonna had a circus act:

This might have set off the stream of other blonde pop icons (SO to CtotheTy)…

Christina Aguilera, after Stripped/Dirrty persona, decided to refashion herself for the follow up album a la Marilyn Monroe, Rosie the Riveter, and, coincidentally, the circus in Back To Basics (2006):

Linda Perry also helped out on disc two as the ringmaster (you can hear the pipe organ waltz that I was talking about):

Pink/P!nk Funhouse (2008):

Britney Spears “Circus” (2004):

Which made it onto ABDC with Ringmasters:

And then, of course, there is T-Pain (2008):

Which also made it onto ABDC with Beat Freaks:

It seems to me that the carnivalesque has come back, as a way of refashioning oneself and/or create a spectacle. For Madonna, Christina, and Britney it was marked as a re-invention (and I would perhaps say re-legitimization, a neutralizing/reseting of their media image). Though perhaps she is already past it, I hope Gaga references the circus at some point.


MV Trend 4: Turn the volume up

May 5, 2010

As a distraction for myself during the end of the semester and the impending finals period, I have decided to scour through even more music videos. In this latest overview, I was interesting in looking at the ways sound technology was reproduced in the videos, nodding towards the fact that this music always first existed as a recording. There are lots of ways to negotiate the video narrative vs. performance/recorded sound idea. Several artists cut to images of their band playing, with huge speakers set up. It is also not uncommon seeing cuts of club scenes where everyone is dancing to the music in the video (that is transcending the diegetic/non-diegetic binary).

Giant speakers and bands playing are fine, as they remind the viewer that the sound is being played out towards audiences. What, then, is the deal with headphones? If the artist in the video is wearing headphones, how are we still able to hear the music? Are we inside their head with them? Is this a metaphorical invitation of intimate listening with these artists?

Take, for example, Madonna in the “Rain” video (Japanese characters included!):

Or, if you want, Aaliyah (one of my favorite artists) in “We Need a Resolution“:

Of course, the practice of being seen with headphones in videos has become a bit commercialized as of late, especially since there’s chatter online about ever-more-in-your-face product placement within videos as artists cash in on their images.

Dr. Dre should be cashing in on the following, as they all feature his “Beats” headphones:

Iyaz in “Replay

Keri Hilson in “Knock You Down in “Imma Be

(not including is Gaga’s Dr. Dre headphone shout out in the “Telephone” video, namely because I keep citing it)

Of course, not be outdone by a fellow Pea, Fergie goes a bit more abstract in “Boom Boom Pow

Finally, however, I believe the most glitzy to be Christina Aguilera in “Ain’t No Other Man”:

Of course, she plays with diegesis a bit more by having a stage performance within the same video:

In fact, how about just watch the video and count the number of sources of sound:

Note the old fashioned (though updated with rhinestones) microphone. A topic for another day.

Ideas towards the meaning of all this noise? Please share comments below.


MV Trend 3: Ocular Occlusion

April 26, 2010

Two recent posts have dealt with what I am beginning to consider as “Music Video Trends” (Music Videos and Adverts, and Show Me Some Shoulder). Because I am particularly interested in the cultural phenomenon/force of the music video as a site of production/reaction, I’ve decided to continue to blog about these topics, among others.

Today I give you “Ocular Occlusion” (I went for the alliteration), or “What’s the Deal with Non-functional Sunglasses?!” To my best of my knowledge, the in-your-face-non-functional sunglasses first showed up in mainstream pop music video’s with Kanye’s “Stronger”:

Notice the white slat sunglasses that literally block anyone from seeing through them. Now, I’ve never worn a pair of these, but I can only imagine that they do not truly serve the normal function of sunglasses. Instead, it seems as though they are an example of flippant style, which is about to take off as it spread across the music video world.

Adopters include Ciara in “Love Sex Magic”:

Rihanna in “Run This Town”:

And perhaps my favorite, Beyoncé in “Diva”:

Lady Gaga’s opinion about non-functional sunglasses seems to be split. First, we have a strong example of her affection for them in the opening of the “Bad Romance” video:

On her next video, however, her pair is covered in lit cigarettes. I’m not sure of whether to interpret this as Gaga going gaga for glasses, or symbolizing that the reign of non-functional glasses has gone the way of ashes to ashes, dust to dust. From the “Telephone” video:

Another intriguing case study of glasses comes from the 2009 chart toppers the Black Eyed Peas. Each member of the group offers their own take on the glasses. has the most standard offering from the Peas, as his eyes are mostly blocked off by the shades in the “Meet Me Halfway” video:

Fergie goes for a slightly more minimalist perspective in “Rock That Body”:

And, finally, doesn’t even need to don shades in order to reference them in “I Gotta Feeling”:

So what’s the deal with these glasses? It seems that hipsters have fully embraced them for better or worse. Not sure if anything else may be read into blocking out half the world through slats, or covering up your eyes entirely, but the trend is pretty astonishing.

Anyone have any favorites out there? Send them to me at or, better yet, comment below!



Special SO to Anthony who sent me this one.

Khia in “Been a Bad Girl“:

King Kong Won’t Die

April 22, 2010

Disclaimer: In this post, I am playing a devil’s advocate for an opinion that can only loosely be supported. I do not think that Justin Bieber, the director of the video, or his handlers are racist so much as careless to leave themselves open to this sort of commentary.

Some of you may remember the LeBron James Vogue cover controversy, where people likened the cover image of him and supermodel Gisele to King Kong and Ann Darrow:

Oddly enough, this fleeting media hubbub was quickly forgotten by the handlers of Justin Bieber. In his tween-tastic music video for the even more saccharin “Baby” ft. Ludacris, a similar pose is brought up:

Compare to something like this:

Now, this is not saying that Ludacris is a gorilla or that Justin Bieber is a dinosaur with giant teeth, but it is saying that this sort of iconography can bring up certain questions about the media portrayal of black male masculinity. (Homoerotic?) Male bonding can commonly be found in rap music and in black culture (see Tricia Rose 1994 and Patricia Hill Collins 2005 for two entry points), but when race is thrown in the mix a whole new dimension of the conversation arises.

When I first saw that moment in the video, I thought I was being paranoid when I immediately thought of the Vogue cover. Of course, to drive any doubts away, the video closes with the ever clear reference to King Kong:

Wouldn’t it be easier to just stay away from all of this?

Here’s the video in full now, in case you can’t get enough of it or would like to make your own decisions:

I encourage you to share thoughts with me in the comment box below.


Collins, Patricia Hill. 2005. Black sexual politics: African americans, gender, and the new racism. New York: Routledge.

Rose, Tricia. 1994. Black noise: Rap music and black culture in contemporary america. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.

MV Trend 2: Show me some shoulder

April 21, 2010

This post is meant to call attention to the resurgence of shoulder emphasis/extension/accentuation in recent popular music.

Exhibit A: Rihanna, from the “Hard” Video

Exhibit B: Beyoncé, from the “Diva” Video

Exhibit C: Lady Gaga, from the “Telephone” Video

Although further examples abound across pop music (in fact, several other examples can be taken from the above artists), S.H.E. from Taiwan perhaps takes the cake (their shoulders are ANIMATED! – special thanks to Rachel for sending me this):

Any thoughts out there to reason of this upswing? Any favorites from here or elsewhere?

**Post UPDATE**

Shout out to Jenna for sending me another example from the opposite sex (albeit Adam Lambert does call into play old questions about masculinity, sexuality, and shoulder pads…):

**Post Update**

While scouring for sunglasses examples, I ran into this example of shoulder pads from Miss Fergie Ferg in “Imma Be”: