The Mariah Carey song “Fantasy” from her album Daydream was the first song that I can remember feeling dangerous. My parents kept MTV out of reach but VH1 snuck under the radar. I remember standing anxiously as I watched the video in my bedroom. I was afraid of heights but wanted to be on that roller coaster with her. I knew the scene was sexual but my desire wasn’t for her but to be a part of her. I was entranced. The refrain of “Fantasy” animates a plush ecstasy:
Images of rapture
Creep into me slowly
As you’re going to my head
And my heart beats faster
When you take me over
Time and time and time again
“Fantasy” is an intoxication, a being-taken-over again and again. It’s delivered with an innocence that allowed it to cross
every surface of airtime in the mid-90s.
This sweetness defined her early career and
“Fantasy” was a hinge moment away from that
chastity—her desiring croons and black cropped
sweater enabling a body to fully feel itself.
Mariah’s vocal runs are virtuosic and
articulate a place of pure fantasy that the
average person can only mimic. Her voice is a
horizon that pulls us towards a utopia we know
we can never fully touch. In the middle of the
song’s glossy caress, the bridge breaks into a
soft gestus when Mariah pulls in lyrics from
Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love”:
I’m in heaven
With my boyfriend, my laughing boyfriend
There’s no beginning and there is no end
Feels like I’m dreaming
but I’m not sleeping
Mariah is living in a sweet sweet fantasy but remains conscious. This split awareness might outline the tools for escape that daydreaming provides, and “Fantasy” becomes a manifesto for interruption laid out in lyric: a refusal of the boundaries between sincerity and distance. Her jump from serenade to introspection flaunts detachment as a display of flippancy and control; a whisper inside a sea of belted waves and whistling peaks. The bridge is a rupture—what Eve Sedgwick might identify as a kind of enjambment or a tactic of pageantry as well as discipline. ((Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. “A Poem is Being Written.” Tendencies (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993), 110-142.))
Daydreaming is a slippage into possibility. Sitting alone in the subway with my eyes closed, I imagine myself on a jet ski with Mariah in the video for “Honey.” Or, at the gym working with Britney to rehearse pop-and-lock choreographies. The proximity to their likenesses animates my body with ambition, a brief embodiment or possession. Being able to access these images to claim their personas as avatars is a matter of survival.
I’m in a stand-up tanning bed at the budget gym, gazing through gold Wink Ease.
Behind the exhaust fan I can hear a
It’s 9am and I am at the club.
I think about how these waves of rhythm travel outward to malls, gay bars, connective tissue; to other gyms, hair salons.
Is this the future I dreamed of? Have I arrived?
The difference between crying at the club with friends, crying hysterically in my living room, crying in the middle of a crisis on the train, and crying on the elliptical at this gym is the level of contact I share with strangers.
I’m at the gym because I need the control
of a machine.
Scoliosis, hypermobility, torqued hips,
a bad knee.
My chiropractor tells me that he loves chiropractic because he isn’t just cracking
my bones and setting those into place,
he’s setting the whole body in motion,
changing its shape.
I think about the accumulation of this cracking, and my assumption that with each visit there’s a new plateau of alignment.
I think about his hand as a sculptor and my body as his material.
I think about pyramid schemes.
Here I am all flickering
in the holographic present
passing or fleeting or passing
The right light
A good angle
A clean shave
Just carrying ankles, wrists
the flat surfaces around are ready
await my melting in
an exhale into paper bag floats to trash
a subsidy to my breath
a petty and fast
The right diet
The right angle
All solutions are poison
even if microdosing
Chemicals do the work
and quickness baits safety
run your hands
on the part of the towel
that isn’t brown yet
This is why I never get sick
and every time I say
I don’t feel good
you don’t look
like you feel good
I eliminate the word “just”
I prune all vocab that smells weak, extra
I realize this excess and reinstate it
poor word full or porous
wanting the flood of projection
live feed creeping
piss porn, I’m urinal cam
I’m just sipping
from a distance
A pony tail
A small clip
Lindsay Lohan opened “Lohan Nightclub” in Greece as a gesture to thank the country for their acceptance of refugees. She recently revealed that she will be designing one of The World Islands in Dubai—“Lohan Island.” She plans to open another eponymous club there as well.
I’m fascinated by the belief that spectacle can become a function of altruism and that spectacle can be the thing that saves the world. With Mariah I believe it. With Lindsay not so much. Lindsay is performing a second act similar to what Mariah processed after a split with her then husband and manager Tommy Mottola, and her 2001 film Glitter tanked. During Lindsay’s attempt at redemption she has invented her own accent and worn headscarves to the airport to reflect her status as a global citizen. After Mariah’s lowest moment she hopped into a bubble bath on MTV cribs.
Mariah’s excess becomes a site of resistance through her amplification of the flippancies that the public sets out to critique. Her flourishes and coasting hysterics are operative because they are casual and easy to dismiss as unproductive and wasteful. She doesn’t attempt to dance but instead employs a troupe of dancers to carry her across stage. Her ambivalent over-performances reveal how fickle the borders between personhood and commodity are and what possibilities might lie in an exploration of those boundaries. Mariah is excessive because our idea of a diva is excessive and she knows how to perform for us. She also knows how to exceed the diva genre in the making. When she talks over the track on New Years Eve she isn’t delivering a knowing wink to the camera, she is actively resisting the way that she is being framed. This is more punk than anything else—a taste of realism alongside the feathered artifice that we’ve resisted as real because of its insistent flitty-ness. And that suspicion has much less to do with an evaluation of sincerity than it does an avoidance of the shame of sentimentality. While there is a need to process Mariah’s gestures outside the filter of camp, her excess is particularly homosexual in an old fashioned “bourgeois decadence” kind of way. I like Marxism but I just can’t stomach false consciousness.
The punctum or the rectum doesn’t rest
It waits it steeps it puckers and squints
Nuisance satiates in contest to poverty
Or in concert with, exacerbates what’s left
Finding self in frame or losing the frame
Isn’t just a break it’s the opening the will
To persist to accept longing as location
That trails that hovers over and not a gap of silence
We forget we want the thing
And the thing is life
We keep moving but we don’t live
We forget each other
And make parodies of bodies
Our full attention pulled from immediacy and into investment
Control isn’t safety it’s procrastination that grows
Exit points boarded to hoard what little shelter supports this side of the wall
We can throw our hips and hair along the edges and wish for gaps
We can glamour the flaming eyes that face us and suggest
And not appease and not pass and not not be
We can do the things that aren’t producing but are doing
and undo the fates we’ve read as truth
I will call all transience iridescence to name it and paint its nails
I will call all iridescence transience because I know that it’s there