Let’s face it. Sebastien Tellier‘s “Look” — along with the video that popularized it — is one of the sexiest things to come out of pop music in ages. And it’s not just for the most obvious reasons, which are really very obvious: the breathy, almost robotic restraint of Sebastien‘s vocal delivery; the animated image of a woman’s naked ass in perpetual motion, abstracted and degraded into a kaleidoscope of rounded geometries. (Many Americans would call this an “objectification” of the female form; Tellier’s fellow countrymen might describe it more as a “celebration”.) It’s the less-is-more principle that ties the whole package together; the only real ear-candy in “Look” is a single, cycling synth arpeggio, just as the only real eye-candy the video has going for it is a collection of lines and black shapes on a screen. It’s all just a lot of mind-numbing repetition; but it becomes exciting, voluptuous even, when our minds jump to fill in the gaps.
Enter synth babe Laurel Halo, and “Look” evolves from a song that leaves everything to the imagination (and has nothing to hide) into an elaborate striptease. Laurel passes the song through the aural equivalent of a fish-eye lens, amplifying and obscuring its signature riff, dressing it up in synthetic flourishes that derail its forward march, peeling back its skin to reveal structural elements we may not have noticed (the drumbeat). Video artist Josef Kraska, her roommate, takes what is perhaps most disturbing about the video and forces us to confront it head-on, substituting the abstract animation of a female with one in flesh and blood — and asking us to admire her while her back is not turned. Cloaked in the creations of designer Heidi Lee, the protagonist passes through a series of hyper-feminine pantomimes as she is alternately masked and revealed by a fantasia of virtual color. Again, the construction of feminine beauty reveals its own seams: just because we can see her now, doesn’t mean she is there.