Space Maidens. The future of music dare not exist without them. For songwriters still on the launching pad, the sci-fi universe offers a wellspring of lyrical subject matter. For video directors, it’s a great excuse to slip the lead singer into something foxy and futuristic.
For a perfect example, let’s timewarp back to 1968, The Year of Barbarella, and an absolutely amazing performance by Brigitte Bardot of Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Contact‘. As usual, Gainsbourg delivers on the Eurosleaze, with Bardot commanding the listener to ‘Remove my spacesuit’, a rather light task.
Now, not all singers have pulled off their foray into fantasy with such kooky cool. For those who later wish to be accepted as a serious artiste, such a performance can leave an irremovable stain on an otherwise brilliant career. They can namedrop Stockhausen, wear a beret, hang out with Eno and blab on about oblique strategies and chance operations until the end of time, however, nothing…nothing can erase the public’s memory of the tacky little novelty single they recorded ‘just that one time’ to give their career an early boost. Bowie had his ‘Laughing Gnome‘, Zevon, his ‘Werewolves of London‘, and in 1978, the year after Star Wars and Saturday Night Fever collided, Sarah Brightman, who would later become the biggest selling Classical soprano of all time, lost her cred to a Starship Trooper.
Also during the late 70′s, Robbie van Leeuwen (ex-Shocking Blue), Rick van der Linden (ex-Ekseption) and their ‘band’ Mistral had a string of synthpop singles which paved the way for groups like Goldfrapp and Lady Gaga. Mistral were primarily a scruffy studio-only band. But when it came time to play their hits on Dutch TV, they knew their best bet was to put a shiny space girl in front of the camera, or in the case of Mistral’s Topop performance of the song ‘Jamie’, a shiny space lady and a pair of giant insect dancers mating on stage. The band went through several lead singers, but you can bet that no matter who sang, a lamé spacesuit awaited them in the dressing room.
Perhaps taking a cue from Gainsbourg, German electronic music legend Klaus Schulze (solo/Ashra Tempel/Tangerine Dream) managed to take advantage of the Bladerunner craze, without totally blowing his Synth-God image, by getting someone else to sing the softcore porno pop lyrics. On JYL‘s self-titled album from 1984, steamy eurosynths pump away while Jyl (Porch) in her role as an Aerobiscized Robot Maria, pouts:
‘They programmed all your fantasies within my plastic heart’
The album is relentless in its mission. Songs like ‘Computer Generation’, ‘Animation’, ‘I’m A Machine’, ‘Electric Lady’, ‘Silicon Valley‘ and ‘Positions‘ never stray from the robo pinup pose. This is the stuff that should have been in Giorgio Moroder‘s remake of Metropolis instead of Bonnie Tyler and Pat Benatar.
…and Joachim Ballon ‘s video for ‘Mechanic Ballerina’ ? Well, just try to keep from giggling.
Yet another Tangerine Dreamer. Yet another digital diva protege. A bit more tasteful than Jyl (which I know isn’t saying much), but no less enjoyable. Peter Bauman lays down fantastical synth riffs over automated rhythms, while Leda sings of stardust, space rides, time travel and, of course, dome cities. Like the Jyl album, ‘Welcome to Joyland‘ is a solid listen, however, the second track, ‘Endless Race’, with it’s menacing Midnight Express riff and goofy futurebabble, is particularly stunning.
Of course, these are just a few examples. The list of female robo-poppers seems to be as infinite as The Universe, itself, with new artists such as Janelle Monáe still finding inspiration in classic films such as Metropolis and I Robot, suggesting that, even musically, space really is the final frontier.
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