Along with the twentieth anniversary of Live Through This, a few weeks ago was also the twentieth anniversary since the release of the classic Hole single Miss World and its accompanying music video; a single so good and a video so superb, and also a song so precious to me, that I thought it was worth marking in a completely separate post.
Released on March 28th 1994, Miss World is a song that, like the entire album it preceded, has had a special place in the immortal playlist of my mind for twenty years. I think I may have said the same thing in a post about Nirvana’s In Utero album, but there comes a point where a work of art – in whatever medium – transcends beyond its initial nature, be it a painting, a film, a song or whatever else, and has been with you so long that it has become part of the fabric of your very consciousness, of your very life. I can say that about Live Through This the album, and I say it about the Miss World single and its video.
Although Doll Parts and Violet are more popularly thought of as the primary singles from Live Through This, it’s Miss World that was the first; and it has, especially because of its video, always seemed like the single that most acts as a microcosm of its parent album, in terms specifically of its evocative themes and imagery. The superb Sophie Miller directed video features the same Carrie connotations and beauty-queen motif that characterizes the iconic Leilani Bishop cover image of the album. Being the single that preceded the album’s release, we can presume this was the deliberate idea.
If I had to compile a top 10 of what I think are the best music videos I’ve ever seen, the video for Miss World would definitely be in it. The imagery is so memorable, the tone so perfectly captured, the essence of the song so powerfully evoked. Sophie Miller’s video is like a mini film in itself, as well as acting like a fitting thematic trailer for Live Through This.
Another reason I’ve always liked it so much is that it seems to capture the band as a whole (or as a Hole) in a way that other Hole videos didn’t do; although of course it’s always Courtney-centric, there’s nevertheless appropriate coverage given to Patti Schemel, Eric Erlandson, and Kristin Pfaff. I also think – I might be wrong – that it’s the only Hole video to properly feature Pfaff, who died barely a couple of months after the single was released. Pfaff is said to have influenced the lyrics of the chorus, which she also provided haunting backing vocals for, her voice offsetting Courtney’s utterly perfectly in the mix.
Wonderfully conceived and brilliantly executed, it really is a video perfectly tailored to so beautiful a song. No one makes music videos as tasteful and as beautifully conceived as this anymore. “Music is dead” is a tired, cliched thing to say these days, but in artistic terms there’s probably a case to be made that “Music videos are dead”, or at least dead as a meaningful art-form in itself and not just as over-indulgent promo material.
Another thing too I’ve always liked about the Miss World video, and about the song itself, is Courtney’s emotional nakedness and vulnerability; vulnerability not being a facet that often comes across in Courtney Love’s screen persona, even though it does in her music. The highly Carrie-influenced motif and the Courtney-as-Miss-World-character at the beauty pageant juxtaposes the same triumph/tragedy, elation/sadness duality that permeates the song and much of the Live Through This album.
With hindsight that duality also is all the more poignant in light of subsequent events; what’s extraordinary is that Kurt died precisely a week after the single’s release and a few days before the album’s release-date. What should’ve been Courtney’s and Hole’s creative and commercial triumph and a celebration of an extraordinary album was overshadowed, almost swallowed up, by that soul-destroying tragedy.
I always remembered the video’s images of the Miss World figure’s sadness even in her moment of triumph and crowning and it made me think how much that symbolically mirrored what was going to happen in real life.
As for the song itself, it is of course superb. Tender, plaintive, even heartbreaking, but yet with a chorus that manages to be kick-arse and bittersweet at the same time. Written by Courtney and Eric Erlandson, that classic Courtney/Erlandson dual guitar dynamic is probably most memorable on this track of all the songs on the album, really evoking a perfectly bittersweet tone to act as vehicle for the lyrics in the same way the verse-guitars on Violet does, while the dual Courtney/Pfaff vocals for the chorus are just absolute perfection.
Lyrically, the song, though said by some to be partly about substance abuse, is more obviously a song about warped or damaged self-image, self-loathing, self-esteem, distorted body image, and a theme that seems to flow through a number of Love’s songs; that of the duality/paradox between inner beauty/ugliness and the outer ugliness/beauty as projected into the world and onto others.
It’s not even my favorite song on the album (which illustrates just how good that album is); I probably think Violet or Jennifer’s Body are better songs. But really that’s just minutiae, as it’s virtually impossible to separate the different tracks on that album, as that’s like taking apart chapters in a novel – the whole album is threaded together inextricably, Miss World being a vital piece of a larger story. But even on its own, what an extraordinary song and how beautifully visualized in the art of video…