Icona Pop's "All Night" Video Gives Due Credit to Ball Culture 

Outward
Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
Sept. 19 2013 3:02 PM

Icona Pop's "All Night" Video Gives Due Credit to Ball Culture 

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Video still courtesy of YouTube.

Adding to the buildup to the release of their much-anticipated album next week, Swedish electro duo Icona Pop released the "Offical Edit" of their video for the club anthem "All Night" today. The video shows the two ladies providing the beat for an eccentric (and clearly Absolut-sponsored) fashion show in which the models are dancing—at least, that's one way of describing it. Another way—and one that is extremely well-presented in the "Extended" video that appeared last week—is that Icona Pop are merely musically supportive guests at a "ball," a queer competition in which a participant's skill in voguing and variously gendered kinds of drag are the measure of success. It's a shame that the longer video, with it's brief but compelling interview clips with the ball participants and more revealing footage of gender-queering transformations, is not being marketed as the "official" one, but Icona Pop deserves credit nonetheless for treating a culture that is not ony not theirs, but that also has a historically fraught relationship with pop music, with respect. 

In fact, in the extended version, one could almost miss the bit about it being an Icona Pop "video" at all since the singers receive, if not less, at least equal screen time as the ball performers they are entertaining (not the other way around). And because the competitors are given room to explain what house/ball culture means to them and why they still compete in it lo these many years after Paris Is Burning, the "All Night" video feels genuinuely celebratory, not exploitive. That's a big deal in the context of an ongoing trend in which many aspects of ball/drag culture are being awkardly mainstreamed: See the "shade" debates, or even Britney Spears' new attempt, "Work Bitch." 

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Check out both versions of the video, and let us know what you think: Is Icona Pop doing these artists justice? 

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.

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