In which we ponder Brokencyde's 'Freaxxx'
If you've accessed the Internet today you've probably been pointed to this already, but we'd be remiss not to direct Pop & Hiss readers in the direction of something so luminously exalted, aesthetically impenetrable and so deeply reinforcing of the Internet generation gap as Brokencyde's video for "Freaxxx." (We'd post it here, but there are liberally autotuned f-bombs abounding.) The "Albucrazy"-based band has done for MySpace emo what some think Soulja Boy did for hip-hop: turn their career into a kind of macro-performance art that exists so far beyond the tropes of irony and sincerity that to ask "are they kidding?" is like trying to peel an onion to get to a perceived central core that, in the end, does not exist and renders all attempts to reassemble the pieces futile.
What was it that Noel Gallagher once said about System of a Down -- that he felt lucky to be alive to see the single worst band to exist in history? I feel something similar about "Freaxxx." Each element of the song is so precisely calibrated to infuriate me -- ghastly synth presets, limp Cookie Monster screeching and enough Antares slathered about to make even Kanye bleed out his eye sockets -- that I can't help but be a little impressed. When accompanied by lyrics that raise emo's underlying virgin/whore complex into the rhetorical troposphere and a visual aesthetic that's equal parts Tokio Hotel, Cobrasnake and the Cash Fan Guy, something more is at play here than a series of missteps from an over-mediated young band.
What we have here are the hideous side effects of Internet-culture music poptimism: a world in which every trope of every genre, sub- or not, is so instantly accessible, consumable and repeatable that to "like" something is completely subsumed by the act of "acknowledging" something. As terrifying as "Freaxxx" is to listen to, its main function is not as song, but as a checklist of pop culture talking points -- there is autotune, there is screamo, there are awful house beats, there is casual misogyny and committed misogyny (dig the third verse where "Freaxxx" inexplicably turns into a Rollins Band song). There's even an oddly moralist acknowledgement on their website that the liquid in the 40-ounce malt liquor bottle was, allegedly, apple juice. In this handful of dust, Brokencyde has shown you the entirety of inside-baseball mall emo and Top-40 radio from T-Pain to Hinder to T.I. to Jonas Brothers.
There are so many inscrutable moments in the song and video (for instance, how would an eager young lady go about taking off her panties, then her pants, as the song suggests?) that it could amply reward a whole afternoon of putting off work for repeat viewings. But mocking it or questioning its motives is to earnestly engage with the song, an act that's inherently meaningless because there is no motive except allusion and misdirection. So let's all stand in awe that Hot Topic finally has its own R. Kelly -- a villain who loves to hate himself, who returns our scornful gaze with an eager mirror.
Brokencyde photo courtesy MySpace / PHILLM