Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dancing With My Self-Esteem

“The advent of music videos as a significant factor in popular music, more than any other cause, created a new metal hairstyle. This second style is still long, but it is cut in a shag or layered manner . Moreover it is styled after each washing with mousse and blowdryers. The new style has not supplanted the old one, but has been adopted mainly by metal audiences and artists that favor lite metal and by those classic metal artists with wide appeal. Long hair has reference not only to a prior subculture but to distinctive body movements, which are a functional alternative to dancing. Youth music, in particular, accords danceability high importance, as evidenced by 1950’s rock and roll, the dance-craze songs of the 1960’s, such as “the locomotion” , “twist” and “monkey” and disco and punk music in the 1970s. 
Dancing is alien to heavy metal for two basic reasons. One is the continuation of the tradition of the youth counterculture. The audience for psychedelic music and for folk-inspired political protest songs listened while seated, to better concentrate on the lyrics. Second, dance is understood in the modern West as an erotic activity. As a masculinist and overwhelmingly masculine grouping with an extreme heterosexualist ideology, the heavy metal subculture stresses male-bonding, not male-female pairing. Thus, it did not appropriate dance as it had been traditionally understood. It also could not refine dancing as the punks did by making it an individual rather than dyadic activity, because of its valorization of community. Yet heavy metal music is based on a strong, regular beat that calls for the movement from the body. One might sit still for folk or psychedelic music, but only the motor-impaired or those who are extremely repressed will not move to the sound of heavy metal songs.
The solution to the problem of body movement was to create a code of gestural response to the music that could be shared in common. One of the two primary gestures is the arm thrust, usually a sign of appreciation but also used to keep time with the rhythm. The other primary gesture, called headbanging, involves a downward thrust of the head with a gentler upthrust. The move is distinctive enough to metal to serve, by metonymy as a designation of the metal audience: “headbangers” ….Individualizing the purchased t-shirt is a frequent practice, particularly by ripping off the sleeves, which is often done in public after purchasing a new shirt….A distinctive demeanor and expression are also nurtured in the metal subculture. The familiar insult that metal fans are “slack-jawed”, evincing a look of dull stupidity, needs to be examined. In part it is an accurate characterization of the faces of those emerging from a heavy metal concert, but it could also describe anyone who has just spent several hours enjoying ecstatic physical activity. The look also reflects the impact of the drugs (downers) and beer consumed by metal fans…the slack-jawed look is neither indifferent or alert. It often accompanies the self-described state of being “wasted”. If you are wasted, you are not available to the everyday world, nor are you setting an example for it. You are simply out of it. The other key expression of the member of the metal subculture, the eager look of the ardent enthusiast, is only for insiders. This face is put on not only at concerts, but while listening to favorite songs or even talking about admired artists or their work. Parents, teachers and the world in general are not privy to this second expression."
-(Deena Weinstein, Heavy Metal, 1990)