Teaching with Contemporary Art

Sexy and I Know It

Jimmy Fallon as Neil and Bruce as Bruce circa 1985

Jimmy Fallon, in case you haven’t already seen this, does one hell of a Neil Young impression.

Recently I shared a video clip with one of my classes where Fallon, singing a Neil Young version of “Sexy and I Know It”, is joined by Bruce Springsteen in a duet of the song.

Crazy and fantastic performances like this are one of the things that keep me looking for new ways to inspire students. After watching the video, a few of us decided that Fallon was using a strategy employed by many artists, musicians, comedians and actors. Here he was, singing in a voice that makes you almost believe it IS Neil Young, and performing a song that Neil Young would never consider (or at least we hope). Because it was Fallon as Young singing LMFAO, it made the viewer/listener pay closer attention to the lyrics and the way the song was re-presented to the audience.

Artists such as Arturo Herrera, Mark Bradford, Paul McCarthy, John Baldessari, Jeff Koons, Laurie Simmons, Allora & Calzadilla, Eleanor Antin and even Gabriel Orozco employ a similar approach in some of their work. Each artist, in a unique way, juxtaposes elements we normally do not see together in order to make us pay a different kind of attention. In Fallon’s performance, you find yourself thinking about how the song has been given the “front porch treatment”. It feels more accessible, comical and silly than the original version, if that’s even possible, yet you wind up liking it even more each time you see it. Check it out here.

 

Contributor
Joe Fusaro is the senior education advisor for Art21, and has written Art21’s “Teaching with Contemporary Art” column since 2008. He is an exhibiting artist and visual arts chair for the Nyack Public Schools in New York; and an adjunct instructor for New York University’s Graduate Program in Art and Arts Professions.
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