This has become an iconic music video, which even I can remember catching glimpses of on MTV. That was when Moby was, somehow and against all odds, a major pop star who got to shoot videos with Gwen Stefani. Although what everyone now remembers from the video is the image of Stefani licking Moby’s shiny bald dome (repulsive or wish fulfill-ey, dependent on your viewpoint) it was supposed to be a parody of the gaudy millennial celebrity culture that Stefani was the epitome of at the time. Those were some crazy times, when pop stars and rappers flounced around dressed like outlet mall hoes and pimps, and cellular phones were the height of luxury. Moby, of course, had no semblance of a ghetto pass, even at his coolest, and the whole point of the song was that he would very likely get murdered if he went joyriding in the South Side of Chicago. He also would never unironically shoot a video with champagne and dancers in a hot rod and his name spelled out in marquee lights. Hence, at the very end, the jar of “Moby Mayo”. If this was today, we would feel compelled to unpack what it is, exactly, that’s being made fun of, and why, two or three degrees of context in, it’s at the very least problematic to be doing so. Don’t they know that the display of conspicuous consumerism associated with hip-hop videos is actually a subversion of racist cultural expectations of economic disparity? But nobody talked like that in 1999, and the products of terminal-stage MTV were very much ripe for a little gentle ribbing.
Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt was one of my favorite records from last year, and I think that it’s going to be a keeper. You can say, derisively, that Moby’s records all kind of sound the same, which, well… yeah. Nobody wants him to make a hardcore punk rock album. We want him to keep making atmospheric dreampop about aesthetically pleasing lite sadness. Because I really honestly cannot get enough of this ethereal moodiness.
So, have you heard about Moby? Apparently he’s a sad schmuck loser who consistently strikes out with women who are far out of his league and then lies about it. Like when he wrote in his memoir that he dated Natalie Portman and she was all like “wut, lol, no I was 18 you creep” and he was like “but we’ve been photographed together, please pleeese tell them we dated” and she was like “hard no!” and then he was so humiliated he canceled his book tour. Which is hardly terrible or earth-shaking as far as celebrity gossip goes, but it does put me once again in the exhausting position of evaluating my fandom of a person who got caught soiling their pedestal. Which, in this case, is hardly a scandal. Moby’s pedestal was never that high, and he didn’t even do anything particularly wrong besides being an average delusional sad dude who thinks that a few hang-out sessions and/or misguided hook-up add up to a ‘relationship’, and being a self-deprecating sad schmuck who gets rejected by women has kind of always been his ‘brand’, so. I mean, I was just evaluating my fanhood of Michael Jackson, and although I decided that I was perfectly okay with not being his fan anymore, I still spent the rest of the day singing “Annie are you OK?” in my head, so… this is child’s play, really. The only thing that gets me is that, unlike full-blown pedophiles, delusional sad schmucks with creepy intentions are fucking everywhere, they’re an everyday part of every woman’s life, and though they may be thinner on the ground once you’ve aged out of being potentially dumb enough to fall for them, they don’t ever entirely go away, and the fact that Natalie Portman still has to waste her time clarifying that she did not in fact ‘date’ a creepy sad older man who imagined himself dating her because they hung out a few times, well, just…. eww, squick. Moby not canceled, but unfortunately revealed to be a mediocre human being, flawed in a very conventional, boring, and pathetic way.
Maybe you’ve noticed that I’ve been digging into post-Zeitgeist Moby, and, you know, I’m digging it. Say what you will about the guy, I know he annoys people because he’s the granddaddy of every insufferable Brooklyn hipster, yeah, and you can say that what he makes music for wimpy kids or whatever. That’s what you get when a resoundingly uncool person accidentally becomes ‘cool’ for a minute. I just really want to listen to some chill music right now, and Moby is my chill music man. Don’t underestimate a nice atmosphere, man.
Moby is here with a simple lesson about cherishing your loved ones, and it’s possible that this may press some sentimental buttons for a few people. Those of you who get misty-eyed about the magic of family, for example. Family is the web of ties that makes us who we are, and if we don’t have that, then who even are we. Some people have shitty families, of course, and don’t find images of granddads twirling babies idyllic. Nonetheless, the message should still find a button to push. The people in our lives, whether chosen or born to, will slip away when we least expect them to, leaving nothing but memories and the vague nagging sensation of their absence. That’s life, inexorably. But you can at least try to appreciate your here and now before it becomes the sepia-filtered past. And, yes, appreciate your folks, appreciate your memories of them, appreciate that web that made you. There’s nothing wrong with getting a little sentimental about your friends and family, it’s just our human nature, even for those of us who’ve chosen to become the end of the family line.
I appreciate a good meditation on loneliness, solitude and alienation, especially when my own love life is on track. Loneliness and solitude, of course, are distinct things that only incidentally intersect. Alienation, longing, love and the rest are yet more circles in an imperfect diagram of the human condition. Many of us sleep just fine alone in our beds – in Moby’s case, most likely on organic whole wheat sheets. There’s always the dream, even for the most incorrigible loner, of finding someone to sleep with holding hands. I mean, sex is cool, but have you ever slept with someone holding hands? (As the meme goes.) We humans are just habitually oversexed and undersnuggled, I guess, and we want feel warm and safe in our sleeptimes. And loved.
Music for teatime is a made-up genre that I often come back to, because for my needs, it’s an important distinction. Can I sit and relax and drift away to this? Moby is very much the master of music that fills those drifting-away needs. I can sleep to this, and I can write and create to it. It’s not quite full-ambient, but it’s close. I think that we should not underestimate the power of the near-ambient; it discreetly does a lot to tinker with our mood, and we need all the discreet spirit-lifting we can get, in this age of darkness that we live in.