MTV Top 100 of 1996 -- Reviews #50-41

50. Stone Temple Pilots -- Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart 1/2

This is the worst STP video ever, no small feat considering the scant quality of videos like "Creep" and "Big Empty." This one, though, is a bunch of home and rehearsal footage that looks like it was taped on a camcorder. I was waiting for a graduation or a trip to Disney World. Best we get is one of the Pilots on a horse. I say we send the video director into rehab with Weiland.

49. Garbage -- Stupid Girl ***

Synthesized drums, remixes, keyboards, samples. This is alternative music? The line between alternative, dance and even pop has been stretched to an almost-unrecognizable point these past couple years with artists that defy being lumped into one genre. Alanis gets played on adult-contemporary stations between Michael Bolton and Kenny G. while also topping the request lists of rebel alternative stations.

Garbage gets Buzz Clip status on MTV but also gets played on VH1. Groups like this cross all sorts of borders, although by the looks of Shirley Manson and her compatriots, they still consider themselves heavy grunge musicians. "Stupid Girl" is the best of the three Garbage singles this year (including "Milk," which barely skimmed the charts), a condemnation by Shirley of girls who look and act a certain way to get attention. Maybe she doesn't realize she poses as the stereotypical alternachick to be considered cool herself.

The video, directed by Samuel Bayer, is a dirty-looking collage of browns and deep reds. "Stupid Girl" has the overly-grainy feel of a filmstrip that has been run too many hundreds of times, and only finds itself getting the least bit colorful at the very end. Not as good as "Only Happy When It Rains," but certainly not garbage.

48. R. Kelly -- I Can't Sleep Baby (If I) *1/2

Kelly mopes about his alpine cabin, mourning the loss of yet another one of his ladyfriends. His lamentations fill the house, carry out to the porch and even accompany him to the general store in town. There are no subtle gestures here, just check out the part where he bangs the hell out of the steering wheel in his Jeep. You have to wonder if he thinks he's going to win a music video Oscar or something for falling to his knees and flailing his arms wildly.

"I Can't Sleep" is one more soundalike tune from Kelly. All his songs sound alike, don't they? But as far as I know, none are quite as contrived as this one. "I can't sleep baby, I can't eat baby, I can't live baby." Might as well add "I can't write original lyrics baby" to the list. Stuff this bad should be kept on the down low.

47. Dave Matthews Band -- Too Much ***

1996 had a lot of follow-up flops, from Weezer and Hootie to Sheryl Crow and Soundgarden. Probably the only non-disappointing sophomore effort this year was from Dave Matthews Band, whose Crash was even better than their first album. "Too Much," the second video from the second album, is a song about excess. Dave says he drinks too much, eats too much, thinks too much, etc. But he hasn't watched 54 music videos in a row today.

There's never a disappointing music video from DMB. Sure, "Satellite" was pretty routine, but not bad. The "Too Much" video finds the band members in a big room of people wearing brimmed hats and Coke-bottle glasses, turning their heads about every which way. After seeing these guys for four minutes, you start thinking, "Too much!" but they serve their purpose. This video, as far as I know, is the only one which gives us a tambourine's eye view. There should be a special MTV Video Music Award for innovative techniques such as these.

46. Metallica -- Hero of the Day 1/2

Remember my discussion of bad follow-up albums released in 1996? Add Metallica to the list. They were heavy metal staples of the 80's and even the early 90's (with "Enter Sandman"), but the Load album was a load of you-know-what. The speed metal group everyone loved the way they were cut their hair and slowed their music down. Who wants Metallica ballads? Such a thing remains unforgiven.

"Hero of the Day" starts out as a ballad but works its way up to the usual rock level. But has anyone noticed that when James Hetfield, the Goose Gossage look-alike, tries to sing a slow song he sounds just like Weird Al Yankovic? It's true. It just doesn't sound right, but then this video isn't right either. It's basically a collection of flickering black-and-white TV images (with the band enacting western reruns, game shows and other such television programming) one kid watches in between plenty of less innocent activities.

45. Dishwalla -- Counting Blue Cars (Tell Me All Your Thoughts on God) ***

Pick a name like Dishwalla and you can't be anything but a one-hit wonder, or perhaps a cover band that plays itty-bitty nightclubs. I have to admit, though, that I liked their one hit and it even had a good accompanying video. Watch out pregnant women, this one will give you motion sickness. The cameras fly past the band members, never settling on an object, while the director cuts back and forth between the free-falling cameras. It's enough to disorient anyone.

We also get the visual technique that washes out the face to make a person seem more attractive than he or she really is. It's worked wonders for a lot of over-the-hill rockers and women of average attractibility, but why do it to a bunch of young guys? And why do the Van Halen "Right Now" thing and flash a bunch of ambiguous yet intelligent-sounding soundbites? Check these classics of modern poetry out: "Chance must be systematically explored" and "Lose yourself in the oblivion of action."

I smell a bunch of Commies. Any decent red-blooded American would have already encited the wrath of the WASPs by suggesting God is a woman, as this song's chorus does over and over. Why, it's almost as bad as imitating Eddie Vedder, as the Dishwalla lead singer does over and over... Okay, I take it back. This video sucks...

44. Busta Rhymes -- Woo-Hah!! Got You All in Check ****

The best new rapper to come along in 1996 was Busta Rhymes, and the best new rap video director was Hype Williams. Put them together and you get the first of three four-star Hype videos on the list. Much of that judgment comes from the fact that, though I am white as can be, I am still a connoisseur of all varieties of black music from rap and hip-hop to soul and gospel.

The video, like just about every video the constantly-busy Hype Williams put out this year, is brightly-colored with many original and artistic sets and costumes. In "Woo-Hah!!" Busta Rhymes wears at least six different distinctive outfits matching at least six distinctive sets. His manic personality goes incredibly well with Hype's directorial style, and even though there is a plethora of MTV-deleted lyrics, Busta's creativity and sense of humor show well in the song and the video. Everyone involved deserves a pat on the back for this one.

43. Soundgarden -- Burden in My Hand **1/2

Oh how the times have changed. Two years ago, Soundgarden made #4 on the year-end countdown. Now they don't even crack the Top 40. It must give Chris Cornell and the boys a good feeling to know they've been beaten out by Los Del Rio and the Quad City D.J.'s, huh? What's happened? Let's analyze... a fickle buying public isn't loyal enough to pay money for an album far inferior to its predecessor.

One Soundgarden tradition that's continued into the second album is to make a couple low-budget videos and then splurge on one really-expensive, super-artistic, non-sensical video. "Burden in My Hand" is just that, featuring Chris in the desert, playing his guitar in a tree while the long-haired, bearded guy from the "World I Know" video walks around. How Soundgarden degenerated so rapidly in just two years is super-unknown.

42. Sheryl Crow -- If It Makes You Happy ***1/2

"If It Makes You Happy" is the best music video Sheryl Crow has ever made. I know that's not saying much, considering the simplicity of her Tuesday Night Music Club videos, but Sheryl's given herself a complete makeover which demands flashy, intricate videos. Gone is the best-friend's-older-sister denim look she exhibited in 1994. It's been replaced by, well, the slut look. Lots of makeup, giant boots and mini-mini-skirts. She looks like Heidi Fleiss now. And I think I'm in love with her.

The video accompanies her new outlook perfectly. Set in a museum between the glacier and marsh exhibits, Sheryl's got her own red room with one of those swirling egg chairs. As a group of boy scouts stares in at her, she sings her fiesty little song. And I can understand why the kids are so fascinated -- I'd be the first to turn in my permission slip if we were taking a field trip to ogle Sheryl Crow. Here, director Keir McFarlane gives us quick cuts, periodical lighting flashes and a Hype Williams color scheme.

This video may start a new trend. Bands will flock to museums to film music videos. I hear Blues Traveller already tried it but abandoned the concept when they realized once they got to the museum, they wouldn't be able to tell lead singer John Popper apart from the stuffed mastadons.

41. Mary J. Blige -- Not Gon' Cry **

The first Waiting to Exhale song on the countdown, this Babyface-penned number is about as good as the movie itself. Written from the perspective of Angela Basset's character, the song pretty much exists only to come up with new ways for Blige to tell the evil man that she should have "left yo ass" long ago. I say whoever was in charge of the soundtrack should have left Babyass off the project.

"Not Gon' Cry" marks a new era in slang. Apparently, the word "gonna" is too intellectual now. It's been shortened to just "gon'." The video for the song has Blige in full mourning regalia. Black clothes, black scarf, black lipstick, black sunglasses. Whether she's lamenting Basset's situation or the fact that she made a mistake agreeing to sing this cliche-ridden song is anybody's guess.
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Copyright 1997 Andrew Hicks / Fatboy Productions