Traffic Jams: Jamiroquai – ‘Virtual Insanity’

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Look, you knew this was coming. I’ve remarked before that our Traffic Jams catalogue had two glaring omissions, as far as I could tell. The first omission that I noticed was Beck and the second was Jamiroquai.

So here it is, in all its funky, acid jazz glory: “Virtual Insanity,” the opening track from Jamiroquai’s album Travelling Without Moving. Released in 1996, this was the third studio album from the English band, and its opening track basically made Jamiroquai and frontman Jay Kay famous in America.

Who could forget that music video, directed by Jonathan Glazer? The video is iconic! It’s legendary, as proven by its four awards from the prestigious MTV Video Music Awards. It was actually nominated for ten awards at the ’97 VMAs, but won four out of ten. Not a bad haul for that year.

In any case, it did win “Best Video of the Year,” which we know is the award that matters. Oh, and in case you didn’t catch the video director up there, Jonathan Glazer also made videos for bands like Radiohead, Blur and Massive Attack. He would go on to direct Under the Skin, the unsettling 2013 film starring Scarlett Johansson.

But the song “Virtual Insanity” deserves a closer look, a careful listen, regardless of the video that came to overshadow it. While I love the video as much as the next Millennial, the song was prescient! Maybe it’s not such a big accomplishment because it was about vague virtual futures getting away from us.

Fine. So the song covered its topic broadly, but damn it, if virtual spaces haven’t monopolized our attention and wrested our focus away from the world IRL, even in cars! Ian Bogost explained it well, writing how the internet-of-things (IOT) has made digital counterparts for the most mundane of objects, and this applies to car enthusiasts no less than any other group.

The album’s sports car theme and nod to Ferrari’s prancing horse was a happy coincidence — or controversial, depending on who you ask. Still, Jamiroquai gave us the de facto song and dance about the future of cars which would soon become flattened into icons floating behind a screen — all this new technology.

 

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