In the middle of her very first sex scene, adult film actor Sasha Grey, then 18, asked her male co-star to punch her in the stomach. He refused, but the request made her famous as an up-for-anything girl.
A year and more than 100 pornos later, Grey turns up as the unlikely star of socially conscious rap group The Roots’ music video for their single Birthday Girl, released online last week.
Like Grey, the song has its own checkered past. It began as a promising single with crossover appeal and ended up low-budget viral video, all in the space of a month.
The Roots were forced to drop it from their forthcoming disc. Drummer ?uestlove (Ahmir Thompson) says it simply didn’t fit with the album, but Birthday Girl’s Internet footprints tell a more complicated story.
When news of the single leaked in March, it was an odds-on favourite to be the group’s belated pop hit. Patrick Stump of chart-topping Fall Out Boy was brought in to sing the hook, and of-the-moment director Rik Cordero was hired for the video.Fader Magazine, an influential for-hipsters, by-hipsters glossy and blog, boosted the track almost immediately after it found its way online.
But the Birthday Girl party ended there. Rap bloggers universally panned the track, and also revealed that Fader and The Roots are connected rather suspiciously to the same promotions firm.
The song was then kicked off the new album to iTunes-only status, and it was announced that neither The Roots nor the Fall Out Boy would appear in the video.
Enter Miss Grey. Playing the precocious birthday girl of the song title, the young pornographer fills the role quite accurately. The lyrics describe “most devious eyes” and “grown-lady ass,” and Grey’s are featured prominently in the video.
On the other hand, the mock fellatio scenes (using a sausage!) only underline the irony: the hedonistic Grey – who once had sex with 15 men at one time – is in a video for Grammy-winning, PETA-supporting, Malcolm Gladwell-quoting musicians.
Reading through the online tribulations of Birthday Girl, though, it’s hard to tell how much of the song’s history was recorded by the Internet and how much was shaped by it.
Joshua Errett is Online Editor for nowtoronto.com