Video Digest: September 7, 2007

From a city where R&B is banned, Rosecrans Baldwin reports on the latest dance crazes he can't find abroad: Aunt Jackie, Chicken Noodle Soup, the jungle footsie, Chicago stepping, toe wop, the majesty of Lil' Britney, and the Molly Ringwald.

My wife loves to dance and so do I, but Paris, where we live right now, isn’t much of a dancing town, especially if you like R&B. Paris is a techno city. Occasionally a bar or club will have a hip-hop night, but mostly hip-hop is relegated, I’m told, to tough-guy bars in the suburbs or the “black music” channel (its real name) on TV.

“Hip-hop in Paris is more for 18-to-21-year-olds,” a co-worker told me recently. “Techno is adult music.”

This was the guy I’d been pointed to at work for tips on bars and clubs. It was last Friday, and my wife badly wanted to go out that evening. We stayed in instead, drank a lot of wine with a friend, listened to the type of records no one plays in a city full of adult music, and ended staying up late searching for the latest dance crazes on YouTube.

My favorite is the Aunt Jackie. I don’t know how much of a “dance” is involved in performing a handclap and then knocking your knees together, but the song is catchy.

More fun than the official dance videos are fan home movies, doing their own thing.

Aunt Jackie follows on the footsteps of last year’s Chicken Noodle Soup, a milestone in my family. My father-in-law loves Chicken Noodle Soup. He sings the chorus incessantly if someone brings it up. If you’re picturing a skinny bearded white southern doctor gunning his Chevy around North Carolina back roads while bobbing his head and repeating “chicken noodle soup” under his breath, when he’s by himself, you’ve got it about right.

I used to be a big drum and bass aficionado. This was during college, when people still bought CDs, and suckers like me bought imports for 30 dollars because certain musical strains, like jungle, had yet to reach these shores. There were also dances to import; some that I brought back from clubs in Cape Town, where I’d been studying, to rural Maine barn parties didn’t quite translate, even if they did look straight out of The Breakfast Club.

The music you hear in Chicago when people are stepping (granted, judging only by the soundtrack on this video) sounds a little like drum and bass to me. My Molly Ringwald Juke probably wouldn’t stand up in a contest, but I could probably be coaxed into trying, with enough champagne.

By the way, toe wop? Toe wop. Right here is what you call queen of the top-notch toe wop, and you would not want to battle this woman down from her mantle.

My wife, who used to work for a big dance company and knows about these sorts of things, thinks I can take all this and chuck it when you submit to the majesty, the undeniable-mega-force of anything starring Lil’ Britney. And she’s right. Lil’ Britney is about the best thing going. You start with “Lipgloss”…

…then you graduate to “Umbrella.”

MTV is all over this, of course, for inculcation and big bucks. “Dances From Tha Hood” teaches, notarizes, and edifies, though I have yet to see it pop up on MTV Europe. Perhaps my wife and I will just hit the clubs one night and I’ll be adult enough to stick to what I know.


Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded TMN with publisher Andrew Womack in 1999. His latest book is Everything Now: Lessons From the City-State of Los Angeles. More information can be found at More by Rosecrans Baldwin

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