MTV Top 100 of 1996 -- Reviews #40-31

40. Green Day -- Brain Stew / Jaded *1/2

This video is a combination of two songs, both of which are about two-and-a-half minutes long, as are most Green Day songs. The first, "Brain Stew," is the worst Green Day song I've ever heard, and that includes the hidden Dookie track "All By Myself." It's built around an inane riff any guitar student could play on his first lesson, and the video's no better. It's a green-and-white (yes, green-and-white) video that has Billie Joe Armstrong lying in a dump (where I venture to suggest he belongs) while the bulldozers go wild behind him.

Then comes "Jaded," a slightly-better color video that has the band performing on a soundstage while the cameras go nuts, in the tradition of Dishwalla. The song is just like the video, a speed punk tune that's all over the place but is still mediocre enough that it's not even on par with "She" or "When I Come Around."

39. Nada Surf -- Popular **1/2

I'm starting to think alternative music is one big geek revenge game. These are the people who didn't fit in during the junior high / high school years and now have mindless clones buying up their albums because their friends have them. This is enough to keep most nerds in rock bands happy, but every so often one band has to take the next step, which Nada Surf has done with "Popular."

It's a lame song whose verses consist solely of tongue-in-cheek popularity advice for the conformist, but I can't give an entirely-bad review to any piece of the media who actually ventures the opinion that surface-level attractibility and agreeability is a tool of the weak.

The video shows a high school straight out of "90210." The girls are all beautiful cheerleaders and the guys are all football players. Everyone looks and acts alike, which seems like a ridiculous concept until you actually go through high school and see the masses of people emulating each other to gain acceptance.

On that level, the video works by pointing out how assembly-line this approach actually is. But the video is lacking that extra layer of insight which would establish that not everyone is this way. Ahem... you're reading the product of an individualist, albeit one who gave Busta Rhymes a four-star rating.

38. Dr. Dre -- Been There, Done That ****

Dr. Dre - Been There, Done That

I still think there is no cooler man than Dr. Dre, especially now that he's made the transformation from gangsta rapper to sophisticated executive. "Been There, Done That" is the transformation, a shameless love song about money.
Dr. Dre - Been There, Done That

Dre has said from the beginning that the gun-toting gangsta thing was all an act for him; it's only money he's after. Now he turns his millions into a fantasy video that's probably more reality than we realize.
Dr. Dre - Been There, Done That

The "Been There, Done That" video shows Dre as an ultra-rich rap god who rolls around the city in a stretch limo, has an independent wife "making dough by the caseload," travels by helicopter and dances the tango in a tux. I had to give the video four stars for the tango scene alone, which shows Dre has more class than any of the Kennedys.

A lot of rappers feel guilty once they start raking in the dough; they feel they've betrayed their humble roots. That's why, with all the talk in the black community of "keeping it real," it's so fascinating to see Dr. Dre flaunting his money and love thereof.

Also clever is the end of the video, which shows an undershirt-wearing Dre, toothpick in mouth, awaking from this dream in a dingy apartment, his formerly-glamorous wife in curlers. You get the feeling the man is intimately familiar with both worlds.
Dr. Dre - Been There, Done That

37. Bush -- Machinehead *1/2

I think it's only appropriate that Bush would have a song on the Fear soundtrack. The two go so well together -- Fear is an unoriginal movie that openly rips off better films of the genre, and Bush is an unoriginal band that openly rips off better bands of the genre. That's my opinion anyway; I know people who like Bush and Fear. I won't beat around the bush: I fear these people.

Anyway, "Machinehead" is typical Bush. If you like the band, you'll probably like the video. If you're me, you won't. It's basically an entire tour condensed into four minutes. We get quick-cut shots of them performing in concert, then shots of the road in between one city and the next, then more concert stuff. It's a theme video.

36. Quad City DJ's -- C'mon & Ride It (The Train) **

Every year there's one of these novelty dance numbers that anyone can boogie down to. There were two of them in 1996 -- weren't we lucky? There was of course the Macarena, but finishing a close second was the Train, which any white person holding too much liquor can make a fool out of himself dancing. The group responsible for this "oo-oo" song was the Quad City DJ's, who are now almost as famous as Tag Team. Oh yeah, they've come a long way...

The video has a bunch of hepcats dancing the intelligent choo-choo dance while the DJ's perform their necessary raps and that one chick sings "c'mon ride it, c'mon ride it," over and over. It's not very inspiring, and neither are the opening and closing shots that establish the party room as a giant space satellite. I've heard the proposals that we shoot garbage into space, but this is ridiculous.

This song was inescapable in 1996 -- played at every semi-social gathering -- but it was worth it to hear Casey Kasem introduce it every week on his countdown because he'd always do this insane pause between "It" and "The Train." He even had an anecdote as interesting as ever about how he asked the DJ's where Quad City was and they replied that it didn't actually exist. You don't have to be so damn literal, Casey.

35. Oasis -- Champagne Supernova *

I could be dehydrated, crawling across a sun-drenched desert, and I still wouldn't stop at this oasis. The more I see and hear of these guys, the less I like them. They strike me as whiny brats with undeserving egos, still thinking they're the revival of the Beatles. Noel Gallagher says, "Everything I write, I compare to the Beatles." I compare it too, and it never matches up. I get a whole new fondness for "Octopus's Garden" when I hear stuff like this.

"Champagne Supernova" is an eight-minute epic that's damn near impossible to sit through. It's not a supernova, it's not even a Chevy Nova. It's just super-sucky pseudo-psychadelia that betrays the Gallaghers' fondness for sex, drugs and drink with the constantly repeated line "Where were you when we were getting high?" What I'd like to know is where were they when talent was handed out?

34. Brandy -- Sittin' Up in My Room ***

Another of the Waiting to Exhale songs, the best on the album, from the talented Miss Norwood, one of at least ten people on the countdown who have their own sitcom on one of the lesser television networks. "Sittin' Up in My Room," which I've been doing this whole time, is one of those house party videos where a collection of perfectly made-up, ultra-fashionabe teenagers dances in perfect unison. Half the time, Brandy is dancing with them and half the time she's sittin' up in her room in deep concentration, apparently trying to figure out just where Quad City is.

33. 2Pac featuring Danny Boy -- I Ain't Mad At Cha ***1/2

2Pac - I Ain't Mad At Cha

Whatever Cha did, he's probably glad 2Pac isn't mad at him. This is the last video 2Pac released before his demise, and it actually depicts him being shot down at the beginning. But you know he was co-director because he actually ends up in heaven, which is apparently a dry ice-saturated soul heaven. 2Pac, in a white tuxedo, actually has to rap his way into heaven. An interesting interpretation, I guess, although it might have worked better if St. Peter wasn't making all those spitting beat box sounds.

"I Ain't Mad At Cha" is probably the best song on the All Eyez on Me album, a smooth but serious mid-tempo track that has 2Pac addressing a friend who has apparently abandoned his thug friends by going straight. This friend in the video is with 2Pac when he gets shot down, and for most of the video, the white tuxedo 2Pac is rapping the apology to him, although the friend can't see him. We can only wonder how many times dead gangsta rappers have visited us to rap out apologies. In my own personal life, I'd guess zero.
2Pac - I Ain't Mad At Cha

32. No Doubt -- Just a Girl ***

No Doubt - Just A Girl

No Doubt was the group everyone liked in 1996. Some people consider them alternative, others give a list of influences from ska to reggae, but I just consider them pop. Anyone who's listened to their entire Tragic Kingdom album should agree it's completely mainstream. There's a disco song on there, for God's sake. The lyrics aren't even rebellious, they're positive and semi-uplifting.
No Doubt - Just A Girl

"Just a Girl," the first No Doubt single released, is my personal favorite song of theirs, a peppy tune that has buff lead singer Gwen Stefani sarcastically addressing the innocent little girl image people ascribe to her. I doubt too many people see her this way, as bold a persona as she puts forth in her videos. Gwen took the Jenny McCarthy approach this year by being beautiful and obnoxious at the same time.
No Doubt - Just A Girl

The video is good, as are all three No Doubt videos on the countdown. Quick flashy cuts, mainly of a good-looking Gwen, although I can't figure out much of a concept. We've got the band moving out of their house, then we've got a bunch of girls powdering their noses in the bathroom, then Gwen's singing next to a urinal in the men's room. That doesn't seem like a natural progression to me, which is why I could never be a music video director.

31. Stone Temple Pilots -- Big Bang Baby *

STP has thrown in the music video towel with their newest album. Sure, nothing they've ever done has translated into a particularly notable music video, but through all their 1996 ambitions, they've made it perfectly clear that they don't give a damn about artistic videos. "Big Bang Baby," which I guess is a theory attempting to explain the origin of a baby, is the kind of video that hasn't been done since about 1982. It's one of those white-stage, ultra-low-budget videos with washed out visuals and a lot of cheap, not-so-special effects. If this is the big bang, I'm looking forward to the evolution.
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Copyright 1997 Andrew Hicks / Fatboy Productions