Tuesday, February 12, 2013



“THE LONGER WE'RE ONLINE THE MORE SUSCEPTIBLE ARTISTS ARE TO THE RICH POACHING OUR CULTURE AND IDEAS AS WELL IDEALS USED AS MARKETING PLOYS,” tweeted Zombelle, a blue-haired singer who describes herself as a seapunk. ‘What is a seapunk?’ I hear you say. Well, I doubt even those who practice seapunk have any clue what it is. It is supposedly a sub-culture, a movement, but one you are not invited to be a part of. Imagine Vivienne Westwood bitching about any designer who uses bondage as a theme for their collection.”I did it first, so I own it.”

At the end of last year Rihanna appeared on Saturday Night Live performing the lead single from her new album and in the background, as she belted out the lyrics to “Diamonds”, were visuals that looked like a Windows 95 screensaver- a 3D grid of yin yangs and diamond GIFs among other things. Katy Perry has been rocking a turquoise bob among other hair colours for the most part of 2012 and Azealia Banks rocks a horn-form, blue hairdo in her new video ‘Atlantis’. As I’ve come to expect from Azelia- who’s hype I’m still struggling to understand- she began accusing Rihanna of biting her seapunk net-aesthetic. Well, Zombelle would not spare either of them and the twittersphere went berserk with her and I presume her followers whining about ‘capitalists’- this being the likes of Rihanna and others who dare try sample Seapunk- biting their style.  

Um... Okay.

This net-aesthetic as well as “T-shirts plastered with pixilated sharks, raised neon glow-sticks, several mops of hair dyed blue and green”, as the New York Times once described it, pretty much sums up the seapunk style.

I agree with most that have sought to analyse this seapunk thing when they say it is a passing fad. It remains very much a thing for tumblr bloggers and, of course, for Zombelle, other so-called originators and their followers I suppose. With the pace of how trends come and go in this tumblr age, I wouldn’t be surprised if even those kids who are into seapunk are already looking for something else to remix and claim to have originated. It’s just the nature of the modern-day human being’s pea-sized attention span. In the same breathe, I must mention that these kids must fall back and stop claiming things that don’t belong to them! This bitching about people biting them is certainly annoying because if anyone’s style has been bitten with regards to seapunk it is Gwen Stefani’s.

The No Doubt singer rocked the horn-form, blue coloured hairstyle that Azealia Banks now rocks in her ‘Atlantis’ music video back in 1998 at the MTV VMAs and she appeared on several other red carpets rocking this kind of style. Perhaps Azealia Banks is too young to recall that the hairstyle she rocks in her video is the exact do Gwen wore that day. As for the badly rendered 3D visuals; I bet many 90’s video directors would want to stake their claim on that. Oh, and... the capital letters in the opening quote? Writing in caps is also, apparently, a seapunk thing.

I totally understand the yearning for novelty that could lead anyone to thinking they are the originators of a particular idea, but unfortunately living in an age where information overload is a reality I think we all have to admit that our ideas are borrowed from all that surrounds us. Gwen Stefani’s late 90s style is a clear indication of where these kids might have, perhaps without even realising it, taken inspiration for what they now want to claim as the seapunk aesthetic. If we look into history, I’m quite sure we could find a variety of sources that may have inspired the various elements that inspired Stefani to dress the way that she did. She, too, borrowed from somewhere. It’s just how trends evolve.

If you know anything about music this will perhaps not be new to you, but for the benefit of the rest let me just say that the kwaito music sound, for instance, as original as it felt when it first came out, was nothing more than a slowed down version of the house music tempo. The seapunk sound itself is a mish-mash of 90s R&B, southern rap, drum n’ base and elements of house. Again, we take inspiration from various sources. That’s how we build on things and take art, fashion, music and even technology forward.

This TED Talks video I recently watched demonstrates this idea of appropriation in a very insightful way. If you take a look at it you will actually be blown away by how the legendary Bob Dylan’s early compositions borrowed from previous artists, maybe without even realising that he was doing so. You will also be blown away, and probably find it as funny as I do, when you realise that the late great Steve Jobs of Apple Inc, who wanted to crush Android for ‘stealing’ from him was once a small fish who did not mind admitting to borrowing ideas from others.


Atlanta Girl said...

Japanese chillwave/seapunk band Atlanta Girl http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AP6ArPoX7s

Nae said...

That is a great article, completely spot on.
I had a friend start to get possessive of hipster culture and I had to break the bad news that I wore dodgy cartoon tshirts and maxi skirts in the 90s.
Every 'new' thing borrows tirelessly from those that have come before.

And Steve Jobs was a massive hypocrite. In 96 he famously said "We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas." And then proceeded to cry foul over Android.