Sunday, April 28, 2013

Weekend Diversion: Beautiful

I don’t usually do these Weekend Diversions about a specific song, but this one warrants it. “Beautiful” (written by Linda Perry and performed by Christina Aguilera) is a positive song from 2002 in a genre that sometimes doesn’t encourage that.

I blogged about Linda Perry, who wrote the song, last week. What I didn’t know until I was researching background information for that post, was that Perry originally played the song for P!nk, who asked to record the song. Perry refused. She later also played it for Aguilera who sang it, and Perry knew she was perfect for it and agreed to let her record it. Supposedly this caused a divide between Perry and P!nk that has never healed.

I referred to this song twice before: Once (briefly) to mention how TVNZ censored it, and also last year about how it was one of those affirming songs that come along every so often:
I noticed awhile back that every few years, or maybe once a decade, a song comes along that reminds youths that they’re okay—despite what their peers say, despite what society says, they’re really okay and they just need to hang on and things will get better. Some examples: “You’re Only Human (Second Wind)” – Billy Joel (1985); “You Get What You Give” (aka, incorrectly, as “You’ve Got The Music In You”) – New Radicals (1998); “Beautiful” - Christina Aguilera (2002), and others.
That was written in the context of my effusive praise for P!nk’s “Fucking Perfect”, which has a similar theme (at the time, I didn’t know her connection to “Beautiful”). Someone really ought to do a study on these sorts of songs and why they pop up every so often.

Anyway, “Beautiful” is one of my favourites, though I like all the others on that list, too. It was also one of the last CD singles I ever bought, and it included the video above. I loved the affirmative imagery in the video as much as the lyrics or performance.

TVNZ’s censorship made me angry.

When it was still a charted single, TVNZ decided to censor the video. The specific section they censored is this (link takes you to YouTube). A few seconds, but ones that mattered. TVNZ claimed they were acting in place of parents, which was a bullshit excuse for blatant homophobia. New Zealand has among the highest youth suicide rates in the developed world, and positive images like that could have helped some struggling young people to feel better about themselves. There’s the old joke about, “no sex, please, we’re British”. Add to that, “no gay-affirming, please, we’re TVNZ”. No, I’ve never forgiven them for that act of homophobic bigotry. Deal with it.

Maybe that bit of official censorship cemented my appreciation for “Beautiful”, not that it really needed any help. In any case, I still find it a positive, affirming song, and an affecting video—and one of the best things that Christina Aguilera has ever done. Reason enough to watch again.

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