May 28, 2013 by Dan Swinhoe
Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei has been sticking to the man for years. The artist and activist has been critical of the Chinese government and often paid the price, feeling the heavy hand of the law more than once.
Moving into a new form of protest, The 55-year-old has just released Dumbass, the first single from his forthcoming Heavy Metal album, Divine Comedy. The song deals with Weiwei’s 81-day detention in 2011, after a crackdown on figures the Chinese government weren’t very fond of. The experience still gives the man nightmares, and he’s said the video is an accurate portrayal of his time locked up.
With cinematography by Christopher Doyle, the video shows Weiwei followed by guards as he’s walked around, hosed down, sleeps, shits, everything, before going on to parody the situation with hookers and cross-dressing.
On the song’s release, Weiwei explained; “After I said it would be heavy metal I ran back to check what heavy metal would be like. Then I thought, oh my god, it’s quite different. So it’s Chinese heavy metal, or maybe Caochangdi [where his studio is based] heavy metal.”
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His assessment is pretty spot on. This isn’t classic metal by any means. With it’s crunchy guitars and ambience sounds, avant-garde industrial is probably a closer fit. Musically it’s fairly decent, but Weiwei’s vocals are poor. The man has admitted he can’t sing, and aims to improve in the future. Lyrically however, Dumbass is scathing attack on the People’s Republic.
“Fuck forgiveness, tolerance be damned, to hell with manners, the low-life’s invincible,” He sings. “Stand on the frontline like a dumbass, in a country that puts out like a hooker. The field’s full of fuckers, dumbasses are everywhere.” These are Punk lyrics to core. Even if they’re not well delivered, the words still carry a hefty punch.
According to the Beeb, both the song and video are being blocked on the Chinese internet – along with the search term “Ai Weiwei”. No real surprises there. He’s spent more than his fair share of time under house arrest, current he says the government have his passport and he is unable to travel.
Is Dumbass very good? Not really. Is it a powerful and brave statement from a man giving a middle finger to one of the most powerful governments in the world? Definitely.