As if trying to one-up the flabbergasting silliness of the trailer for Oliver Stone's forthcoming biopic about him—in which the human clown Joseph Gordon-Levitt does his best to sound like a King of the Hill character—famed whistler-blower Edward Snowden has reinvented himself: as an electronic artist. Sort of.
Snowden, who famously dimed on the US National Security Agency for indiscriminately collecting its citizens' private data and immediately became a hero of iconoclasts and liberty nuts everywhere, has teamed up with legendary French electro artist and laser harpist Jean-Michel Jarre on the new track "Exit." The song is slated to appear on the musician's forthcoming record Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise, a followup/companion piece to last year's Electronica 1: The Time Machine.
In what's sure to be the song of summer—pouring out of car stereos and soundtracking backyard cookouts and beach parties of all kinds—Snowden outlines his motivations, and views on security, and the surveillance state. It's all set to Jarre's hectic, paced-up beats which suggest the whirlwind speed of, like, the rapid spread of data in the information age.
The music video amounts to a montage of stock footage of public spaces and people on cellphones, overlaid with computer interfaces and streams of the numbers 1 and 0. With all its spiked, hack-the-mainframe paranoia, it looks like something that could have been packaged as a bonus feature on a first-run DVD of Hackers or The Matrix.
Wait, no. Not even Hackers or The Matrix. More like The Net. Remember the fake band Mozart's Ghost from The Net? This could be a music video for the fake band Mozart's Ghost from The Net, provided you layered some garbage GarageBand guitar riffs over top.
As for ol' MC Eddie Snow himself: the news-making patriot-slash-domestic-terrorist appears midway through the song/video to deliver a stirring monologue, of the kind so familiar to popular music. The beat falls away, and the prophet speaks:
"Technology can actually increase privacy.
The question is:
why are our private details
that are transmitted online,
why are private details
that are stored on our personal devices,
any different than
and private records
of our lives that are stored
in our private journals?"
It's the sort of track that remixes itself. Imagine: The kids rush the dance floor. The DJ holds the beat. Holds it. Holddddddds it. BOOM. Everyone dancing, getting wiggly, to the sound of skitchy Snowden stuttering, "Pri-pri-pri-pri-private journals. Private journals. Private journals. Pri-pri-pri-private journals. Journals. J-j-j-journals. Private journals."
Electronica 2 also includes collaborations with luminaries such as Hans Zimmer, Peaches, Pet Shop Boys, Yello, and Cyndi Lauper, none of whom have squirrelled damning secrets of indiscriminate state surveillance out of heavily guarded facilities at great personal risk, and were named runner-up for Time magazine's Person of the Year in 2013. Not even Dieter from Yello.
As to the rather incidental question of why, in god's holy name, Edward Snowden is appearing on a Jean-Michel Jarre track? Well, maybe the electronic music community has an even greater stake in electronic surveillance. After all, it's all... cords and cables and lasers and whatnot.
Whatever. Magician Penn Jilette guested on a Pigface track once, so literally anything is possible.
John Semley is on Twitter.