joining lorde’s cult; who’s afraid of disney robots; dead malls

off brand: august 25th round up

Hi guys,

A quick note – I’m sure we have all found the trauma of the news cycle over the last week deeply affecting. If you’d like to understand more about the situation in Afghanistan, I’d recommend listening to the recent relevant episodes of The Daily from the New York Times. If you’re interested in donating, there are many worthy charities – I’ve supported the International Federation of Journalists’ Safety Fund here. Thanks, as always, for reading :)


The Lorde hath risen. Lorde’s new album Solar Power arrived on Friday, preceded by the video for single ‘Mood Ring’ a few days earlier. Immediately, I loved this song: it’s a dreamy, cultish refrain about white girl wellness culture and our increasingly desperate, vaguely spiritual attempts to cleanse our souls from the anxieties and fears of modern life.

I'm tryna get well from the inside
Plants and celebrity news
All the vitamins I consume

In the video, Lorde, in a Gwyneth Paltrow-esque blonde wig (her mood, she sings, is dark as my roots / If I, if I ever let them grow out) performs a series of hypnotic, synchronised moves with a group of Instagram-ready girls. Surrounded by salt lamps and soft furnishings, they burn sage and brush their hair, dipping their slender feet into a bucket of ice – Wim Hof, DIY style.

Both ‘Mood Ring’ and the album itself are full of stoner haze, chanting vocals and the occasional sitar twang, sounds that knowingly hark back to the end of the 60s – as do references to psychedelia and a kind of lapsed, appropriative new ageism (Let's fly somewhere eastern, they'll have what I need). In ‘Dominoes’, she takes shots at a man whose ditched coke for weed and can be found doing yoga… just outside of Woodstock. ‘California’ opens with the line Once upon a time in Hollywood, the title of Tarantino’s 2019 take on the Manson murders.

‘Mood Ring’ has the generic, inoffensive beat of an early 00s pop hit, but it, along with another track, ‘Fallen Fruit’, actually reminds me of one of my all time favourite songs – Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’. Mitchell missed the 1969 festival due to a TV appearance, and wrote the song after her then-boyfriend Graham Nash recounted his experience of it to her. In it, she imagines meeting a young man on the way there, to join in a rock and roll band and try and get (his) soul free. It’s a Paradise Lost do-over for the 60s, a vision of flower children searching out the Eden they’ve been expelled from:

Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it’s the time of man
I don’t know who I am…

We are stardust
We are golden
And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden

Like Mitchell, Lorde is a storyteller of her time. Born in the year of OxyContin, she sings on the album’s opening track ‘The Path’, before recounting the uncanniness of her Met Gala experience: Supermodels all dancing 'round a pharaoh's tomb, a line that captures the surreality of celebrity and being a self-described teenage millionaire in our social media driven, hyper-consumerist age. Elsewhere, the great minds of her generation – a nod perhaps to the most famous line in Beat literature – are followed immediately by the vapers.

Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’, and the hope its anonymous protagonist has of a better world, feels to me like an elegy to the 60s, the last optimistic gasp of a time of change that would descend into one of chaos. The week before the festival, the Manson family murdered Sharon Tate in Los Angeles (‘Most people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969’, writes Joan Didion of that day in The White Album). By May 1970, four Kent State students were murdered by the National Guard while peacefully protesting the Vietnam war, immortalised in Crosby Stills Nash & Young’s ‘Ohio’. (The band also, famously, did a version of ‘Woodstock’, but it lacks the uncanny melancholia of Mitchell’s.)

Ever since trippy 70s design started oozing into my Instagram Explore page, I’ve been thinking about the ways in which the late 20-teens and start of the 2020s parallels that time. The 70s was an era of destabilisation: marked, like ours, by the scars of faraway wars, politicians who lied directly into TV cameras, and fears of environmental catastrophe.

Today, for all the sun salutations and all the crystals, there’s no Eden to be found. Enlightenment is out of reach – Lorde’s hippy children, Psychedelic garlands in (their) hair, are dancing on the fallen fruit.

I can't feel a thing
I keep lookin' at my mood ring

She sings on ‘Mood Ring’. Who can’t relate?


HEADLINES

Only Fans, the Instagram of p*rn (don’t mind me trying to avoid your spam filter), is banning explicit content, in order to continue taking payments from providers who aren’t happy with how well its been moderating illegal uploads, especially from underage users. Although nudity will still be allowed, this is a potentially devastating turn for the platform’s 2m creators – many of whom made accounts over the pandemic.

Bey and Jay are the new faces of Tiffany, which is great news for my LVMH shares, but is dividing the internet thanks to the inclusion of a blue-hued Basquiat. Would J-MB have wanted his work as the backdrop to two cultural greats and one giant diamond? I dunno, but I think it’s worth noting that his estate are possibly among the most indiscriminate licensers in the art world, next to those of Keith Haring and Andy Warhol. We’ve already seen everything from a Basquiat make-up palette to an Urban Outfitters collaboration and a plate collection – but along with an Aaliyah-branded clothing collab, it’s interesting to see this conversation about artists’ legacies play out.

Are you ready for sentient Disney robots? This New York Times feature on the future of Disney animatronics – free-roaming robotic actors able to emote – is both horrible and fascinating, in a can’t-look-away kind of way. It also includes the gem that Disney recruited a senior roboticist from Boston Dynamics, known for its terrifying, viral (and now unemployed) robot police dog – he is today presumably working out how to make Elsa from Frozen come to life.

Further proof that we are in the age of artists as 360 degree creative brands, Frank Ocean unveiled and launched Homer, a luxury brand with a turn of the millennium, Pokémon-esque aesthetic selling fine and high jewellery – including one necklace with an almost $2m price-tag. “I keep things to myself. But I’m perfectly happy wearing $3m worth of jewellery and going to the studio, or for a walk in the desert,” he said in an exclusive interview with the FT. That, folks, is luxury. Keep an eye out for a forthcoming Prada collaboration.

Kanye West is still working on Donda – for all the Ye latest, including his work with Demna Gvasalia of Balenciaga, listen to the newest ep of Popcast which features legends Rachel Tashjian and Steff Yotka and possibly the best pod fit check of all time. Curiously, Kanye has also been feeling the YBAs: after first posting a reworking of Tracey Emin’s ‘Bed’ (complete with his Balenciaga spiked jacket) Ye popped up on the TL to share (and then delete) Damien Hirst’s 2006 work ‘The Incomplete Truth’, a dove in formaldehyde previously owned by George Michael – it sold in 2019 as part of a Christie’s auction of his collection.


FOLLOWING

Abandoned and unloved shopping malls are, as Contrapoints brilliantly put it, “a gothic aesthetic for the 21st century, (a) decaying opulence that is the carcass of 20th century consumerism”. This week’s follow is @mallchitecture, after I came across one of their TikToks. Banally beautiful American suburbia. Strange, solemn, sublime.

LISTENING

to MYSELF on How Long Gone!!! Thanks to the lads for having me. I hate the sound of my own voice to the extent that I get AI software to transcribe my interviews but I am told that it’s an entertaining listen, if you would like to hear me talk about the new type of therapy I’m doing and also Love Island (almost, but not entirely, the same thing).

also, if this is your first time getting this newsletter because of the pod, WELCOME!!!!!!


SEEKING

I’m bored of my fragrances at the moment. Usually I use either Byredo 1996, Byredo Oud Immortel, or Comme des Garçons Jaisalmer. I guess I want to smell like a hot man with a disposable income, so I like dark, complicated, maybe slightly grubby scents. I don’t like anything super girly or fruity or light and fizzy. I hate rose. I think my ideal fragrance would be like: patchouli x sweat x cigarette smoke on a hot day. Yum.

But I grow out of fragrances, or I guess they become so wedded to specific times and places that wearing them feels like putting on clothes that don’t fit any more. After one ill-fated fling I quite literally had to give my perfume away; I couldn’t stand the smell of it. And the problem I have now is that my perfumes are all pre-Pandemic. maybe that sounds silly, but it’s like they’re from a different era of life.

I do think I’ve found my next bottle. It ticks all my boxes and has this slightly unexpected element to it that I like, so I’m trying it out before I fully commit. But I would love to hear your recommendations in the meantime. I’ve now turned on email replies to the newsletter, so HMU. Alternatively, say hi if we pass on the street and invite me to smell you.


READING

I love this essay by the White Pube’s Gabrielle de la Puente on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, a show I watched in its entirety over the long pandemic winter, quite literally being lulled to sleep to the sounds of housewives screaming at each other. For de la Puente, the housewives and their luxurious ease are an escape from the symptoms of long Covid: “I am very jealous. Healthy, protected, mythically rich – I am not sure any of them really exist… the Housewives are princesses inside huge Barbie Dreamhouses,” she writes. (One, Lisa Vanderpump, even has a moat with swans around her mansion – one of which she has to wrestle into the back of a Range Rover to take to the vet.)

I’ve always been interested in the blurry, unstable category of reality. This piece is about what we get from this kind of TV, what keeps us coming back. I think for me, what’s most fascinating is when reality life spills over into real life, like it is right now across a couple of the franchises: Salt Lake City’s Jen Shah being arrested while filming, or the legal troubles of Beverly Hills’ Erika Jayne, whose estranged ex husband is accused of misappropriating settlement money intended for plane crash victims. You get these moments where it’s clear that, despite the stylists and the glam teams, the control these women thought they had over their images was never theirs to begin with. They’re high rolling gamblers being put up in the penthouse, but they don’t own the Casino. (Okay, apart from Adrienne, who did in fact own a casino).


AND FINALLY

A post shared by @emmahopeall

A very honourable mention to this Twilight bag from Praying. High camp.

See u soon x