Tuesday, October 8, 2013

We Just Stay Home and Play Synthesizers - West End Girls by Pet Shop Boys

Yesterday we saw a synth-based group that played like a band. Today we'll be looking at the exact opposite. "West End Girls" is a rap song done by two thin, white, English gentlemen. Take a look:

The first thing you'll notice in this video is that there is the singer and then there is another guy lurking in the background. The other guy is too cool to want to be in the video. Trying to be on camera is for people who try too hard. Trying too hard is the definition of uncool.

In this picture you can see the singer strutting through a gritty area while dressed inappropriately nicely. Two other people walk in the background. See, the other guy is just one of several people in the background!

Then, there is a shot of the two of them standing in front of some sort of painted metal shutter/door. Since only the two of them are in the shot the other guy decides to be see-through. That way he can maintain his cool.

Then, the shot changes, yet the other guy moves to stay in the frame. You can imagine the director saying, "Hey other guy! You are still in the shot. Hey!" while the other guy just stands there scowling pretending that he can't hear anything. Eventually the director just said, "Screw it," and let him stay in the shot.

We see here that the conceit of the video, that the other guy is too cool to want to be in the video, is totally false. The singer has something to do in all of these shots. He is lip syncing. Even if he doesn't do much he is least doing something. He also is magnetic in his milky, weak chinned, British-ness. The other guy, though, is the one trying too hard. If you really don't want to be in the video, just don't be in it! If he was standing in the shot playing synthesizers (I assume that the other guy plays synthesizer. Otherwise, what does he do?) then I would understand him being in the background of every shot. Other bands have no problems with most of the shots being just of the lead singer. I think the other guy desperately wants you to know that he is the band too. It is pathetic, really.

Look at him. I want to throw up. "Oh, is there a camera here? I hadn't noticed."

"I'm much more interested in what's happening around me. Look at that over there!"

The director, desperate to have a single damn shot without that synthesizer playing egomaniac decides to do some location-based shots to give you some local flavor. The song doesn't really specify what they mean by "West End" but I've gathered that it is a section of a city. I believe they were referring to the Sudanese city of Atbarah, population of about 100,000. Here is one of their famous double-decker buses:

This is a bridge over the river Nile: (Why do I feel compelled to refer to it as the "river Nile"? Shouldn't it be the Nile river? Or possible the Rio Nile river?)

Finally, here is a famous large clock that calls the citizens to their daily prayers:

Now, the other guy decides to make a little effort and drop his cool.

He struts/dances around while mouthing the words. He quickly becomes embarrassed and goes back to pretending to be cool.

"Do you think anyone saw me?"

The amount of anxiety the other guy must have is amazing. He can't cut loose for more than a few seconds and then is paralyzed by what other people might think. He tries so hard to fit in that he sticks out like a sore thumb.

This is a cry for help.

I think he's contemplating just jumping into the Nile. He wonders if anyone would even notice.

At this point in the video the other guy presumably passes out from stress and is rushed to a hospital. This gives the singer a chance to be alone and try out some of his dry British humour.

He looks through some sort of purple writing at the camera as he sings the last lines of the song. "West End (of Atbarah) Girls".

He then contemplatively looks off-camera. But wait! He isn't done singing!

He looks back at the camera to sing the name of the song again!

He then becomes contemplative again as if he didn't do that a moment before. That is hilarious. Did he forget that he had more to sing? Is he not contemplating but looking off screen at cue cards that tell him what line to sing? Is he simultaneously trying to play the singer's and other guy's parts in this shot?

I guess he's trying to say something about the duality of man.


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