Art or Marketing? Erykah Badu Gets Naked and Courts Controversy in New Video

7 years ago

After appearing completely naked except for some well-placed scrambled pixels, singer Erykah Badu has been talking with her fans on Twitter this weekend about her bold move to bare all, her new video, and her thoughts on its theme of rejecting the dangerousness of groupthink.

2009 Soul Train Awards - Show

The video is posted on Badu's Web site.

CNN reports that Badu's commando video for "Window Seat" was shot guerrilla-style: just a camera but no crew, and no warnings to the public. The video's format is one long shot that looks like documentary footage and incorporates audio from the 1963 radio broadcast of John F. Kennedy's assasination.

In the video, Badu feeds a parking meter and walks through Dallas's Dealey Plaza while removing her clothes until she reaches the spot in the road where Kennedy was killed. Badu then throws her head back as though shot by a bullet, collapses to the ground, and bleeds a blue pattern that reveals a stylized version of the word "groupthink," using the ankh symbol to replace the "ink."

Badu doesn't interact with the unsuspecting public in the video -- but she has been interacting quite a bit on Twitter. In fact, social media seems to be the video's co-star. The short window between shooting and posting "Window Seat" has meant that Badu, who tweets as @fatbellybella, has been able to engage the public in a documentary-style lifestreamed event. She posted several times the day of the shoot; she described her experiences afterward; and she has been engaging fans and confused viewers via Twitter (@fatbellybella) since the release of the video on Saturday, trackable via #windowseat.

She credits this video for the song "Lessons Learned" by Brooklyn duo Matt and Kim as inspiration, though "Window Seat" seems to have more of a Lady Godiva/protest feel to it than Matt and Kim's work does.

"Window Seat" is a track on Badu's fifth studio album, New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh), which will be released this week. Badu is 39 and the mother of three children who are one, five and 12.

What do you think? Is Badu just selling records with sex, something she has been critical of in the past? Is she making a point that communicates because of her bold, artistic choices? Is she stoking real conversation, putting Twitter to good use, or just stoking controversy for its own sake? What about you? Would you get naked in public, for art, to make a statement, or just because?

Contributing Editor Deb Rox blogs at Deb on the Rocks and tweets, perhaps with Ms. Badu if she's lucky, as @debontherocks.

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