Dita De Boni: Simplicity trumps complexity

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In these dark and confused times, a little old-fashioned sentiment goes a long way

Illustration / Anna Crichton
Illustration / Anna Crichton

There is no sense in complaining that the life of a writer is in any way hard - not in a week when another forestry worker dies, the sixth this year.

And yet there is the inevitable wear and tear that accumulates for any of us who spend hours a day shoved up against a computer screen - the fraying eyesight, the stiff joints, and the general feeling your blood is flowing less like blood, more like golden syrup.

There was a time when I - stupidly - scoffed at indulgences such as micro-breaks and ergonomically correct seating, but that was before I found myself having to visit the $20 Chinese masseur at the mall on a semi-regular basis to stop myself looking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame - all kinked neck and back and pained expression.

It was during one such visit that not only was my physical self unkinked, but so was my mental self too. The masseur had just proceeded to sit on top of my shoulder (that's how it felt; who knows what it looked like) when the soothing tones of Elvis Presley's Love Me Tender wafted over the radio and gently caressed my nerve endings. I'm no die-hard Elvis fan, but what I loved about that moment was the pure simplicity of the lyrics, the calming lilt of the voice, and the way the song seemed to encapsulate something sorely missing from the mid-afternoon consumer madness.

Another reason this song hit such a pleasing nerve, I suspect, was that I had just been contemplating Beyonce's upcoming New Zealand concerts. In particular, I could not get over my annoyance at the expression worn by the artist on posters advertising her "Mrs Carter" tour, where she's dressed up, inexplicably, in the style of Madame de Pompadour and looking as though someone has just asked her to calculate pi to 100 decimal places.

I don't think Beyonce is stupid. She's a smart, beautiful, driven woman and a great performer. But the irritating thing about her is that she is presented as a proposition so complicated, so multi-faceted (but ultimately meaningless), that, to me anyhow, it kills her appeal.

She's a Christian, married mother of one but also a sex bomb. She's sweet, but "nasty" - even imperious. She believes women should "rule the world" but doesn't believe in feminism. She hopes her little girl will grow up to be Michelle Obama but she's never seen wearing all her clothes. She's proud of herself but shy. And so on. And so forth. What does she actually stand for?

Elvis, on the other hand, is a simple proposition, and one that ultimately seems more authentic.

Even when hindsight tells us he was a troubled man, the offering to his fans was straightforward: man sang good, made women swoon. His music seems heartfelt and uplifting.

No doubt music and life itself have become more complicated and frenetic since Elvis was at his peak, and an Elvis reincarnated would seem hopelessly dated in the dark complexity of today's cultural climate. But it's that complexity, I think, that is also driving people back to the simple and sunny. We just need to be uplifted - unkinked, if you will - once in a while.

- NZ Herald

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