Just hours after Rihanna performed her single “Diamonds” on Saturday Night Live in front of a backdrop seemingly pulled right off Tumblr dashboards, Azealia Banks dropped a music video for “Atlantis” that featured similar Lisa-Frank-Meets-Seapunk aesthetics. Was it purely coincidence or did Rihanna’s SNL performance and Azealia Banks’ new video for “Atlantis” both pull from the same Internet aesthetic? And do either of them have to answer to the crew of Internet artists that have been calling foul?
The two most definitely have similar inspirations, as seen in this comparison captured by DIS magazine:
And as BuzzFeed points out, web artists aren’t thrilled with what they perceive to be “stealing” of their work — moreso for the Rihanna performance (perhaps because it got the most attention) than the Azaelia video. Video artist @JeromeLOL tweeted “Rihanna I See you” and followed it up with “Who art directed the Rihanna SNL performance?!” after many of his friends and followers pointed out that the video Rih used looked an awful lot like one he had created in 2010.
Even without the release of Azealia’s “Atlantis”, Rihanna’s SNL showing would’ve most likely received speculation. Saturday Night Live’s very traditional performance backdrop (the Grand Central facade) is so rarely altered. Sometimes lights are dimmed or a stool is moved for backup dancers, but Rihanna’s green screen takeover is definitely a new move for the live show.
Does it even matter for Azealia–who has been influenced by the aesthetic of Tumblr and trends like “seapunk” for a long time now? The mermaid-haired dance artist who fought ties to hip-hop has (of recent) buried herself within web culture and even embraced ’90s-inspired retro beats, so her trippy video for “Atlantis” should surprise no one. It’s definitely weird timing though, perhaps accidentally, that both used this aesthetic only a day apart.
Meanwhile, did anyone say a word when M.I.A.’s “XXXO” came out?
M.I.A.’s Blingee’d out 2010 music video definitely originates from the same space. The YouTube comments are already accusing Azealia and Rihanna of stealing from M.I.A.: “Rihanna’s SNL performance of Diamonds and Azealia Banks’ Atlantis video were straight up inspired by this video that came out two years ago,” writes thebigAah. Weirdly, just a few days ago, M.I.A. tweeted “THE HEART OF ART IS MAKE IT THE ART OF ART IS SHARE IT” and at the Museum of Modern Art’s P.S.1, she openly embraced her love of Internet art and the artists that make it: “We built a community that sort of felt like it was the future.”
Reactions vary, but it seems like the closer you are to the subject (read: M.I.A., Azealia) the less crap you’ll get, no matter how you repurpose the work. Meanwhile, Rihanna’s seemingly random use of web art as the backdrop for Saturday Night Live definitely pissed off quite a few people.
Confused? Have a look for yourself.
Here’s Azealia’s newest, “Atlantis”:
And here’s Rihanna’s SNL performance:
Thoughts? Questions? Accusations? Comments are below.