Great news: one of the most treasured alternative dance musicians of the past decade—Roisin Murphy—has announced that she is releasing a new LP this year. This is the distant follow up to last year’s Mi Senti, an EP based in Italian adoration. What will the new LP be? It’s called Hairless Toys and will touch on themes like “the making of one’s own world, a safer world and the creation of a new, better family in music or youth culture.” It will also touch everyone’s favorite movie to watch as a senior in college, Paris Is Burning, the underground gone basically viral documentary from Jenny Livingston on the late eighties and early nineties New York City drag ball scene. It’s a movie of heartbreak and history and a touchstone for so many.
Literally: it is the muse of a new generation of people, queer and not. Devonté Hynes claimed ownership of it last year while Azealia Banks has sampled Dorian Corey in her mixtapes. Mainstreamers like Icona Pop made a drag ball inspired video and even underground sensations like Leon Vynehall have used the film. You see it in high end venues for alternative dance performance and in the mainstream, the likes of FKA Twigs and Rihanna appropriating vogue. Lest we forget: Madonna originally used this as source material over twenty years ago.
So where does this leave Roisin Murphy, a darling of the LGBTQ community and acclaimed talent who is also inspired by the film? This is a conceptual misstep because it’s so tired that she, a forward thinking cool lady, seems retrograde. Remember Overpowered in 2006? Everything she did on that album sonically and visually was the foundation that was laid for Lady Gaga and more: almost every pop star copied her. So is she instead copying the copiers by copying the copy? Perhaps—but it seems like she’s entered into a tired trope with only millimeters of newness to add.
The song directly inspired by the film—”Gone Fishing”—is smokey lounge fare reflecting past luxuries. It’s a decent song steeped in suppressed emotions, full of suppressed emotions and understated production. There is a cleverness present but also a cleverness missing: there doesn’t seem to be anything earned from this inspiration. Unlike many of the aforementioned, she isn’t gratingly copying nor is she valiantly sharing: she’s attached baggage to something that didn’t need it.
In this instance of inspiration by Paris Is Burning, neither the creator nor the created really benefit. it just is.