Savvy youtubers might remember the Russian Interior Ministry Police choir’s rendition of Daft Punk’s party anthem “Get Lucky,” from the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics opening pre-show. The cross-cultural, incongruous, and awkward use of “Get Lucky” to open an event of international importance raises interesting questions around the significance and function of pop songs in a global context.
Daft Punk, a French duo, uses (or musically misuses) English slang in their own pop context, which is then further recontextualized by the choir. Native English speakers need not consult urbandictionary.com to know that “to get luck” is to have sex, though one entry nevertheless notes that related words are “daft punk,” “pharrel,” and “date rape,” evoking a problematic, and insightful, chain of signification. The association of luck to winning athletic events provides one obvious interpretation for the song’s "innocent" inclusion in the opening ceremony; yet its theme was apparently love, making the intent seem purposeful. Leaving intention aside, the recontextualized performance of the song articulates a set of incongruous signifiers that constitute, rather than simply represent, a meaningful message about the world. In this case, like Barthes’ saluting Negro soldier, the military attire of the choir, when added to the sexual subject of the song, implies a sexual imperialism entirely congruent with the then recently passed anti-LGBTQ law while also reifying the cultural sanctioning of uses of force (or alcohol) within non-consensual sexual encounters. In other words, this choir served as a catchy if somewhat awkward glove to mask Putin’s extended middle finger in the face of protests against homophobia and heterocentric misogyny.
In a global mediated world, it is difficult to argue for universally dominant or hegemonic readings of any text that is produced and re-produced by actors from different cultures for a quintessentially international event. Even beyond that, what makes reading this choir’s performance in the age of “convergence culture” so difficult, and also so interesting, is that, as Berger says “it can be seen in a million different places at the same time. As you look at them now on your screen, your wallpaper is round them. Your [browser] window is opposite them.” Thus the local contexts, like the signifiers in Barthes’ meanings and myths, proliferate beyond our ability to nail them down, even as troubling ideologies still lurk within the text.