When dissident artist, provocateur, and perennial pain in China's ass Ai Weiwei announced in March that he would be unleashing a heavy-metal record on the world, there was a substantial amount of buzz, much of it focused on the aural bird-flip the record would surely represent.
There have been some red flags, however: for starters, Ai admitting his lack of musical background or ability. After his 81-day detention in the spring of 2011 he said he realized that he "had never really listened to music or sung." Then his "Gangnam Style" parody video -- which was basically just 4 minutes and 15 seconds of a bunch of people dancing to the South Korean pop sensation. In March, he cited Elton John -- whom he had met backstage before the Rocket Man's Beijing concert -- as an inspiration for his record, though he promised it would be more eclectic. "Some [songs] are like heavy metal, some are more punkish, and some are more pop," he said, though it's hard to believe that he knew what any of that musical lingo actually meant.
On Wednesday, Ai said he will release the six-song record on June 22 -- the second anniversary of his release from detention -- and, as a teaser, he released a music video for the first song on the album, "Dumbass." In the video, an imprisoned Ai walks around his cell, flanked by two guards, then prances around in a suit, with two beautiful women at his side. In one scene, he showers himself. In another, he eats what appears to be wonton soup. It's astoundingly inane.
Renowned cinematographer Christopher Doyle, best known for his work with Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai, shot the slick video, while Ai sings the words to a song co-written by Zuoxiao Zuzhou, one of the first truly alternative rockers to come out of Beijing. Alas, here, Zuoxiao Zuzhou's otherwise decent song becomes an afterthought to lyrical and video content as subtle as a sledgehammer to the head: "Oh dumbass, oh such dumbass!" is one of the video's more sophisticated lines.