MTV Top 100 of 1996 -- Reviews #70-61

70. The Dave Matthews Band -- So Much to Say ***

Dave's the man. I've thought that since the first time I saw the breakthrough "What Would You Say" video. "So Much to Say" continues the tradition of good Matthews Band videos. The premise behind this one is that Dave's going a little crazy. We see him in a padded cell and acting nuts whle singing his own song. He still has a grip on talent, though, as does the rest of the band. Any band that has its own fiddle player can't be bad.

69. Rage Against the Machine -- People of the Sun **1/2

The moment they appeared on "SNL" with Steve Forbes, Rage Against the Machine doomed themselves to sellout status, something this politically-active anarchist band never intended. Now every 13 year old in America thinks they're the coolest thing since Green Day and no one takes them the least bit seriously.

The kids who saw this video, with quick cuts of the band playing in a room while messages about the horrors of Mexican government flash on the screen, probably thought the song referred to some 50's sci-fi movie about a race of highly-advanced beings living on our source of light and warmth. S.P.F. 1,000,000 required.

68. Alice in Chains -- Heaven Beside You ***

Me in 1994: "Watching Alice is no wonderland for me." Me in 1996: I like these guys. A lot changes in a couple years. I watch "Seinfeld" religiously now, take daily showers and have my own car. Apparently, a fondness for Alice in Chains was part of that transformation. "Heaven Beside You," the best song from their self- titled album released late in 1995, is almost as radio-friendly as "No Excuses" but with a darker edge that comes through in the malaise video.

Most of it features obscured shots of little kids drawing on foggy windows while the song's lyrics are stamped on the screen. Sounds really lame, yeah, but it's tough to put into words the images in every music video, especially when you've seen so many in such a short time. But it's good; be sure of that.

TOO NEW. Snoop Doggy Dogg -- Snoop's Upside Ya Head ***

Snoop without Dre isn't quite as fizzassunky as he used to be, but he's still representative of the best of the genre, now that Tupac Amaru Shakur has passed. This video, which TV Guide said has too damn many sound effects (violating their lifelong commitment to journalistic objectivity by taking such a bold stand), is set in a prison mess hall, with Snoop and the G.A.P. Band (now there's even a G.A.P. Band for kids!) entertaining the prisoners during dinner with their fabulous gift of song. I'm still not sure if all this is actually documentary footage or was staged specifically for the video.

All the while, a group of protesters is outside as a TV reporter announces we are about to witness the first televised execution of a gangsta rapper. A good 86% of the nation would pay through the nose to see Snoop in the chair, but the "Snoop's Upside Ya Head" video never makes good on that promise. Instead, we see him performing for the prisoners, which I guess we're supposed to think is his last request before the execution. I don't buy it -- I think we all know Snoop's last request would involve Nell Carter covered in whipped cream. Gimme a break...

67. La Bouche -- Be My Lover **

It all comes back to La Bouche, which means "the mouth" in France. They chose the name to come off classy, which is damn near impossible when recording techno music that sounds like all the other techno music recorded since 2 Unlimited came out with "Twilight Zone." This is the better of the two La Bouche songs and videos, as if that's any ringing endorsement on its own. I think they're a bunch of bouche bags myself.

The "Be My Lover" video is pretty much lifted straight from Crystal Waters' "100% Pure Love" (a good dance tune), right down to the close-up shots of reel-to-reel tape recorders. It's set in an empty factory (the one where they churn out sound-alike techno crap), with all the studio equipment brought in while the girl sings and the guy raps. Makes you wish they'd both keep their bouches shut.

66. Marilyn Manson -- The Beautiful People 0

I think I'm incapable of giving anything but zero- star ratings to Mr. Manson. Here, His Shirtless Freakiness sports black dreads and white facepaint while having his mouth stretched wide by some dental headgear. With his mouth this open and receptive, I'm finally starting to figure out how this guy got his record contract. A hint, Mary -- you don't need to make yourself up to look like a freak.

My other only consolation with this guy is that none of these fickle junior high kids are going to buy his next album. The only reason anyone's bought his current album is because it's called Antichrist Superstar. It's a guaranteed pissoff for parents during those rebellious years. I know my mom would have thrown me out the window if I sported an album with the word "Antichrist" at the age of 13. Manson should get off the Antichrist kick; we all know he's not it. The Bible says the Antichrist will be almost universally worshipped, the best Manson can hope for is being universally laughed at.

65. Coolio -- It's All the Way Live (Now) **1/2

In the past few years, famous artists have been getting big hits from movie soundtracks as often as from their own albums. This trend has led to a lot of music videos that are much better than the movies they're promoting. This single, Coolio's fourth sound-alike in a string that began in 1994 with "Fantastic Voyage," was from the Whoopi Goldberg basketball bomb Eddie. The "All the Way Live" video ties in with the movie by putting Coolio on a giant glowing basketball court while the strobe lights go nuts.

Coolio hit the promotion circuit for this single. He even did the Tom Synder show one night, which I think makes him an honorary honky. I love how Snyder kept repeating the name of this song. "It's All the Way Live... Now..." And I tell you, there's nothing stranger than hearing Synder say, "We'll take some questions for Coolio on the toll-free in a minute. We're glad you dialed us up tonight. Back in a moment, I'm Tom Snyder."

64. Green Day -- Walking Contradiction **1/2

Green Day really struck out with their follow-up, Insomniac. Maybe it didn't sell because the 13 year olds who bought Dookie had graduated to the sophisticated world of high school, or maybe everyone knew it sucked. Either way. But when your second album's worth of songs are even less creative than the first, I'd side with the latter. Still, "Walking Contradiction" is the most enjoyable of the six Green Day videos MTV has been playing the hell out of these past three years.

"Walking Contradiction" is a childish video perfect for these guys. The three band members walk around the city wreaking uninentional havoc for three minutes. One sends a jacked-up car down a hill, another pushes the "walk" button at a street intersection and electrocutes a telephone company repairman, Billie Joe causes a seven-car pile-up, etc. The song is about as cliche-ridden as usual but the fun video almost makes it seem good.

63. Celine Dion -- It's All Coming Back to Me Now 0

Where to even begin with this one? I shudder to think this video will be the one to survive all our lifetimes, to be used by future generations as proof that the music video medium was a mistake. The song itself is a campy classic, a Jim Steinman production in the Meat Loaf tradition with the same slamming door and sleighbell sound effects from "Total Eclipse of the Heart." The video for same is also a Meat Loaf ripoff, with the same mansion and motorcycle as the "I'd Do Anything For Love" video.

Celine's reminiscing her lost love (a motorcycle hunk who died in a fiery crash we get to see several times) in an empty mansion, wearing a Victorian wedding dress while strobe lightning flashes outside and the wind blows through. There are more candles than a Police video, yet the wind never blows any of them out. Could this symbolize Celine's seeming omnipotence over the adult-contemporary charts and weddings and bar-mitzvahs around the country?

But wait, Celine's pleasure palace isn't empty. There's the motorcycle guy driving down her hall. There he is in the picture. Look, Celine! Oh, you just missed him... Then there's the ultimate in laughability. She's dancing with Biker Boy, then he disappears and she's dancing with herself, although there was some weird computer animation involved and it looks terribly unconvincing. All part of the overall effect, I guess -- the bad song, the bad sound effects, the bad costumes, the bad lighting, the bad overall concept.

It's so bad my friends and I can't change the channel when it comes on. Like watching Reefer Madness or Mad Butcher , there's this compulsion to sit there in awe of the awfulness and laugh your head off. Remember when Celine was just bad? You could shrug off songs like "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Power of Love," but there's no ignoring "It's All Coming Back to Me Now." It's so incredibly bad it reaches an entire new level of defect and inadequacy.

62. 311 -- All Mixed Up ***

Music is becoming more fragmented by the day. Or it's becoming more united. By the "fragmented" definition, 311 is classified as an alternative reggae punk band, a genre which doesn't have too many members. Looking from a unification standpoint, the music of 311 brings together a wide variety of influences and still manages to be mainstream. This song anyway; "Down" sucked.

The "All Mixed Up" video is a stylish collection of images, with the three (eleven) band members waking up, heading to Chinatown for a massage and, finally, performing in a tiny club. The guys have fun with the whole music video / fame thing, and it shows. I can hardly wait for their next album. You know what that's going to be called, don't you? 312.

61. Toni Braxton -- Un-Break My Heart ***

Guy on a motorcycle crashes and dies. Pop diva mourns and sings about it. Didn't I just write about this one? Nope, this is the R+B version of "It's All Coming Back to Me Now," and it's not nearly as bad. There are three distinctions here. First, the song "Un-Break My Heart" kicks Celine's Canadian ass. Corny synthesized orchestra replaces cheesy sound effects anyday.

Second, Toni Braxton is infinitely more worth watching than Celine. True, that's not Toni's real hair, but you forget all about that when you see her in the bathtub. You heard me right, "Un-Break My Heart" sports a Braxton bath scene.

Third, there are no appearances by the dead boyfriend beyond the actual death scene, which is a crackup in itself. That means no scene with Toni Braxton dancing by herself. I'll take solitary bathing before solitary dancing anyday.
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Copyright 1997 Andrew Hicks / Fatboy Productions