MUSIC VIDEO CRITIC AT LARGE
MTV Top 100 of 1996 -- Reviews #100-91
100. Cranberries -- Free to Decide ***
The Cranberries, as far as I'm concerned, outdid
themselves with the releases from their third album, To the
Faithful Departed. Their two videos this year, "Salvation" and
"Free to Decide," are both artistically good representations of good
songs that have nothing to do with the IRA. That's the first time such
an alignment has taken place, so congratulations Raspberries... er,
The "Free to Decide" video has singer Delores O'Rierdan
and the rest of the band out in the desert, playing their instruments in
a carefree manner, even though we all know there are no electrical
outlets in the middle of the desert. It's okay, though, I'm willing to
suspend my disbelief if O'Rierdan will agree to start eating again. My
God, she looks anorexic here. When you're a fully-grown adult and
your weight is still in the double-digits, there's something wrong. I'm
talking to you to, Kate Moss. And yes, I am the best-qualified person
to criticize someone's weight.
One notable perk of "Free to Decide" is that the video
rewinds itself at the end, showing us a rapid, reverse recap of what
we've just seen. In the spirit of the video, I've decided to do the same in
this review, giving you the first letter of every third word backwords,
in case you've forgotten anything I wrote in these last three
A hint to high school and college students -- this memory-enhancer
works well with exams too.
99. Fiona Apple -- Shadowboxer **
Fiona Apple, for those of you who
aren't completely obsessive about pop music, is a combination folk
singer / lounge singer. They liked her over at VH1 this year, thanks to
her combination of radio-friendly melodies and beauty. Say what you will
about her, but Fiona is straight-up gorgeous. I'd like to take a bite out
of that Apple. She's golden delicious! That fills my quota of sexist
comments for this countdown, although I may slip from time to time.
Forgive me, I'm an 18-year-old male.
The "Shadowboxer" video, easing down a notch to
#99 this week (forgive me, I always wanted to be the only person
besides Casey Kasem to use that phrase), is so mediocre it hurts. It
falls into that genre of black-and-white studio videos in which the
artist is seen singing into a microphone for four minutes. The most
popular abuser of this genre is Mariah Carey, another golden
delicious babe. Told you I'd slip every once in awhile...
98. Babyface featuring L.L. Cool J, Howard
Hewett, Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniels -- This is For
the Lover in You *1/2
Hard as he tries, it's a sad fact that Babyface can't be
cool in a music video. He attempts every couple of years to release his
own albums and make his singing as popular as his songwriting, but it
never happens. Babyface should just accept the fact that he will go
down in history as a very-rich, ultra-successful songwriter and not a
One reason his efforts to palm himself off as a pop
singer inevitably fail is because he gives all his good songs away saves
filler like this for himself. This is the man who wrote "Red Light
Special," "Take a Bow," "I'll Make Love to You," "Breathe Again" and
the entire Waiting to Exhale album. He could have saved all
those songs and made his own personal greatest hits album, but then
he wouldn't have made the millions in royalties that come from all
your songs going to #1 for twelve weeks.
"This is For the Lover in You" is the worst song he's
written since "Count on Me," despite his all-star cast here... if one can
call Jody Watley a star with a straight face. L.L. Cool J is en tow to rap
out his usual sex verse and the other two, whom I've never heard of, to
add a little soul here and there. The video is your usual collection of
quick cut style, with Face in sunglasses and fancy threads in front of
a blue screen while guitars fly at the camera. What concept they were
going for here is anyone's guess.
And is it just me or does half the solo material
Babyface releases have the phrase "For the _____ in You" in the title?
97. Radiohead -- High & Dry *
Everyone's favorite one-hit wonder alternative band
from 1993 is back with the comeback I never knew they had. "High &
Dry" is a far cry from the screaming "Creep," an adult-contemporary
song that sounds like something Take That would record. I have a
hunch this song was huge in Europe -- that stuff always goes over well
The video is just about as good as the song, taking
place entirely in and around a dingy diner the two band members
(Radio and Head) walk into. It tries for an "Everybody Hurts" level of
poignancy, with various customers lip-synching the lyrics at different
times, and only ends up looking ridiculous. I still haven't figured out
what these guys have against Hi-Dri paper towels.
96. New Edition -- I'm Still in Love With You *
Did any of us ask for the reunion of Bobby Brown,
Johnny Gill, Ralph Tresvant and Bell Biv DeVoe into one crap
collage? No, but those six had some money to make, so they and Kiss
hit the road this year singing old tunes, new tunes, borrowed tunes
and blue tunes that had one thing in common -- they all sucked.
"I'm Still in Love With You" is the kind of mediocre
R+B the six members have given us in their worst solo days, a song
that doesn't come close to "My Prerogative" or "Poison." The video is a
self-indulgent portrait of a bunch of rich guys on a yacht with their
babes (Whitney nowhere to be seen). The best part is when one of
them falls into the water. Five more and you might have yourself a
95. Stabbing Westward -- Shame 1/2
Let me take a stab at this one... Well, you've seen
plenty of bad horror movies, haven't you? I sure have, in the theater,
on video, on cable, on broadcast TV, I'm used to all the cliches. The
"Shame" video, a personification of the word "ambitious," tries to
work a horror plot in with the usual shots of long-haired grungers
banging their heads to their first video.
The story is laid out in subtitles -- crazy guy calls up
pretty girl, all by herself in her new house. He informs her that he
broke out of the mental hospital and is coming after her. So she runs,
and he finds her, asking "You wouldn't be avoiding me, would you?"
No, of course not, but I'd recommend avoiding this video if it ever
comes on again, although this may be one case in which the lack of
variety on MTV may work out to your favor.
One by one, the Stabbing Westward bandmembers
leave their soundstage to sneak into the movie theater and watch the
well-worn story of the stalker and the victim. They're entertained by it,
but then again they should be; it's their video. As for everyone else,
shame be upon thee if you find any value in this video.
94. La Bouche -- Sweet Dreams *1/2
1994 brought us Ace of Base, 1995 brought us Real
McCoy, now La Bouche fills the quota of one really bad techno pop
group per year. "Sweet Dreams" was their second video of the year, a
sound-alike dance tune that features all-synthesized music, a woman
singing the chorus and a man rapping out a couple verses, all of which
are requirements in this genre of music.
This video features the man and woman doing their
thing on the beach while mobs of scantily-clad folks dance around. It's
nothing we haven't seen multiple times in one form or another since
1991. The song is about as original as the video; it even rhymes
"groovin'" and "movin'." I don't know about you, but I place that
rhyme one notch below "fool" and "school."
93. D'Angelo -- Lady **
One of the biggest movie flops of 1996 was
Multiplicity, a comedy about cloning. But cloning doesn't
seem that far-fetched when you look at the music industry, which
every year releases singles and albums by artists that are directly
reminiscent of past artists. D'Angelo, smooth teen crooner, is pretty
much a combination of every R+B heartthrob of the past ten years.
"Lady" sounds a lot like Babyface's "When Can I
See You Again," although D'Angelo looks nothing like BF. His facial
hair is out of control and his hair is in those ever-attractive corn rows.
This is probably why I've never heard any females talking about how
cute he is.
As for the "Lady" video, it looks just like Babyface's
"For the Lover in You," which I've already said my piece about. Bunch
of sedated young folks lounging around a house while D'Angelo sings
his smooth little groove. "Lady" was directed by Hype Williams, a
name you'll be seeing a lot of as my reviews of this countdown
progress. I love Hype's work, and there was a lot of it in 1996, but
this is the worst thing he's done.
92. Soundgarden -- Pretty Noose *1/2
Everyone and his sister liked Soundgarden a couple
years ago. Their Superunknown was the best alternative album
since Nevermind, but when they released Down on the
Upside this year, "never mind" was what most people were
apparently thinking. None of the three songs released to MTV sound
anywhere near as good as "Spoonman," "Fell on Black Days" or the
brilliant "Black Hole Sun." The videos aren't even that good.
"Pretty Noose" is pretty bad, with Chris Cornell
and the others performing on a drab stage while various generic
psychadelic lighting patterns flash in the background. When
Soundgarden is imitating Oasis, you know it's time to hang things
up. Remember the song from Superunknown, "the wreck of
you is the death of you"? The "Pretty Noose" video is that wreck.
91. Madonna -- You Must Love Me **
Madonna used to have a reputation for making
stylish and brilliant music videos, but that's fallen by the wayside these
past couple years as she's embraced an attitude of simplicity and
maturity. With this single from Evita, she's sitting in a room
with a bunch of musicians in between clips from the movie.
That's all there is to it and, while she does look
incredibly glamorous, it doesn't compete with the short-attention span
people like her have given us over the years. True, a classical ballad
like "You Must Love Me" would be destroyed by an over-the-top
video. This video does go well with the song, but neither are as good
as Madonna's past work.
To Videos #90-81
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Copyright 1997 Andrew Hicks / Fatboy Productions