When I first saw the video, I wanted to know what Erykah Badu’s take on it was. As a longtime fan of her music, there’s usually substance and thought behind what she does.
This time I was left in a state of confusion, as I tried to recall ideas from my college class on “Feminist concepts and practices in art class.”
So what is the deal? While this isn’t the first time Badu has appeared naked in a video, it is the first time a video has been released without her approval. As Badu said via Twitter, to Wayne Coyne, “As a woman I feel violated and underestimated.”
This fact, that the video was released without her consent has prompted a Twitter feud, among other various articles and opinions.
In Charley Rogulewski’s Rolling Stone article he describes the beginning of the collaboration. Wayne Coyne called up Erykah Badu “out of the blue with the news that he was on the way to Dallas to work with her.”
“‘I didn't know what was going to happen,’ Badu admits. At first instructed to ‘just feel it’ and ‘sing it however you want to,’ she says Coyne then proceeded to interrupt her 29 times with instructions during the recording process.
Ray Rahman reported on the discussion via Twitter in, “The Flaming Lips and Erykah Badu Twitter feud over nudie music video,” saying:
“About a month ago, Coyne and Co. debuted the since-removed NSFW video, much to Badu’s chagrin. She took to her Twitter account to express her displeasure, writing, ‘I never would have approved that tasteless, meaningless, shock motivated video.’”
The Oklahoma psych-rock vets released the following apology:
“The video link that was erroneously posted on Pitchfork by the Flaming Lips of the Music Video ‘The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face’, which features Erykah Badu, is unedited and unapproved. Sorry!! We, the Flaming Lips, accept full responsibility for prematurely having Pitchfork post it. It has outraged and upset a segment of fans and we apologize if we offended any viewers!!! This is a Flaming Lips video which features Erykah Badu and her sister Nayrok and is not meant to be considered an Erykah Badu or Nayrok statement, creation, or approved version.”
This wasn’t really sufficient for Badu, who followed up with a Twitter response (via Twitlonger) which can be summarized as: “You can kiss my glittery a–.”
Some highlights of which include:
“I have not one need for publicity... I just love artistic dialogue… And just because an image is shocking does not make it art. You obviously have a misconception of who I am artistically... I told u from jump that I believed your concept to be disturbing. But would give your edit a chance…I never would have approved that tasteless, meaningless, shock motivated video… Our art is a reflection of who we are. I have no connection to those images shot in their raw version. I was interested in seeing an amazing edit that would perhaps change or alter my thoughts.”
As Abdul Ali, says in the Washington Post blog, “the five-minute work displays a sense of play and pleasure with the black female body that’s indulgent, unapologetic and ultimately liberating.”
He also adds that it is “problematic.” As there’s “a naivete or bravado on the part of Badu to not consider the consequences of performing in a racialized and politicized sphere where black artists are held to different standards.”
There is also a complete disrespect from the part of Wayne Coyne, but no one seems to be discussing that part.
As Ali says, “the viewer is left wondering what just happened. The intense thrusts of a guitar playing in the background, Erykah Badu repeating the first time I saw your face in a bathtub, recalling a birth scene giving the song a radically different interpretation than Roberta Flack’s.”
Badu has spoken out about the video, but as an activist, singer, mother and doula (labor coach), Badu has more important things to focus on.
When asked by Rolling Stone if she sings while helping deliver the babies, she says, “I cry. Joni Mitchell says it's the same emotion: laughing, crying and singing. It's the same feeling that I have.”