REVIEWS -- MARCH 24, 1999
 
 
                               
 
Better Than Ezra -- Desperately Wanting 
Better Than Ezra -- Desperately Wanting
     (***)  I shouldnít like this. In reality, these guys are no better than Matchbox 20; or at least itís the same style of art-school whining. Except with Better Than Ezra, it seems sincere, like they really do airbrush and make sculptures from peopleís trash in their spare time. That being sad, what exactly is this video supposed to be about anyway? All I can seem to decipher is the band playing in an empty airport with intercut scenes of people actually being there. Maybe that was before they started their soundcheck. I guess airplane commuters arenít big New Orleans pop fans. Me, I can handle it, at least in small doses. ĖJames Wallace 
Better Than Ezra -- Desperately Wanting

Sheryl Crow Ė Anything But Down 
     (**1/2)  This is the spookiest-ever Sheryl Crow video. She skulks around her dark apartment with puppet strings manipulating her. Oh, I get it. Her boyfriendís a prick. What a great way to represent that both visually and metaphorically. Somebody was doing some thinking that day. Luckily, the entire video isnít Sheryl Crow being pulled around by Gepetto. It also has that pillar cliché of the video world, the slow-motion shot of a glass of water falling off a table and shattering on the floor. And, as a piece de resistance, the video features several cameo appearances by Mr. Bigglesworth. That alone makes it worth watching. ĖAndrew Hicks 

Divine Ė One More Try 
     (*1/2)  Song by song, the music industry has decided to remake George Michaelís Faith album. First Limp Bizkit, now Divine. By the end of the year, weíll hear Alanis Morissette sing "Monkey," Orgy cover "I Want Your Sex" and Marilyn Manson beg us to let him be our father figure. No thanks. Divineís cover of "One More Try" falls into that growing vein of slow-jam remakes of lily-white Ď80s hits, lest we forget Az Yetís version of "Hard to Say Iím Sorry" and The Chimesí "I Still Havenít Found What Iím Looking For." Actually, everyone has forgotten that one. We can tell this one will be bland from the beginning (SINGER #1: Iíve had enough of dangerÖ SINGER #2: Mmm hmmÖ) and the video does nothing to help it out. The three singers seem to have bought their clothes at an En Vogue yard sale and the sets are all out of really bad Cosmo shoots. Japanese parasols in an R+B video? No thanks. --AH 

Harlem World f/Mase Ė I Really Like It 
     (*)  Mase is shot out of a circus cannon. Finally. --AH 

VJ Review: Stephen Hill of M2 
     (Expiration Date: When the soup runs out)  What the hell is wrong with this guy? I mean, I know itís low budget, but couldnít they do better? His jokes are bad. I mean theyíre bad. Nobody laughs, not even the obligatory "Talk Soup" style chuckle from the crew. His musical knowledge is dubious, and he seems to be under the impression that he has fans. I hope they nip this guy in the bud before he gets moved to the main station. Also, donít do impressions. That lameassed Bob Dylan voice can peel paint from the walls. Itís that bad. --JW 

Elton John and LeAnn Rimes Ė Written in the Stars 
     (*)  Elton sings to his snow globe, which contains two miniature lovers who apparently have to break up. That would suck, too, because youíd still have to live in that snow globe with the girl, not to mention the fact that Elton wonít fucking stop singing to you. LeAnn holds another snow globe that contains a second set of star-crossed lovers. Whatever. This video sucks. Iím surprised this isnít the theme song from Deep End of the Ocean or something. If someone was really immoral and enterprising, theyíd put together a compilation of this stuff to sell on late-night TV ads. "Crappy Duets" would feature Elton John and LeAnn Rimes, R. Kelly and Celine Dion, Bryan Adams and Sporty Spice, as well as classics from Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes and the guy from Loverboy and Jennifer Warnes. --AH 
     (zero)  Eltonís career is officially dead. Okay, I admit I liked the Lion King soundtrack, and in a lot of ways itís responsible for this atrocity, but I never thought it would go this far! I canít imagine anybody actually liking this. Itíd be like going to see Mel Torme or something. When I think that he used to be a badassÖ okay, a badass in a duck suit, but still. Then, as if itís not bad enough, they throw in LeAnn Rhymes, poster child for Future Forgotten Country Stars. Iím sure Elton calls her "his little angel," or something equally sickening. Could there be a story behind their little "duet"? HmmÖ Anyway, I guess I should say something about the video itself. It looks like it belongs on the soundtrack to a Disney film. A dark colored set, with Elton and LeAnn dressed oh-so-snappy and singing heartfelt lines at each other. I kept waiting for clips from The King and I to pop up in the background, but they never did. Too bad, because thatís all Elton has to look forward to. If Disney hits a cartoon dry spell like they did in the eighties, heís finished. --JW 

Krayzie Bone Ė Thug Mentality 
     (**)  Apparently, itís okay for rappers to be thugs again. It was kind of iffy after Tupac died and Puffy rose from the ashes of Biggieís ample bosom, but the badasses are slowly reemerging. Mya has fallen in love with Silkk the Shocker and one more Bone Thug has gone solo, showing Ė as I wrote a couple weeks ago Ė that without the other members of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, he can make music that sounds exactly the same. Actually, three other Bone Thugs make "special appearances" in this video, which serves as yet another big-budget tale of a crime gone awry. By the end, Krayzie is throwing hundreds out the window to deter the car thatís chasing him. Money ainít a thing, I guess. And I really could have done without the closing shout-out to thugs in every possible corner of the country ("My Detroit thugsÖ my Columbus thugsÖ my Alabama thugsÖ my New Mexico thugs"). --AH 

John Mellencamp Ė Iím Not Running Anymore 
     (**)  As you may have already guessed, I taped six solid hours of VH1 this week. Sheryl, Elton, LeAnn, Shania, they all came from that six-hour chunk. Oh, and they showed Cherís "Believe" video three times. Then thereís this new Mellencamp video, which I have yet to see on MTV. Itís okay; youíre not missing much. It sounds like all of Mellencampís other Ď90s comeback attempts, "Key West Intermezzo" in particular. It aims for some kind of eclectic Mexican hip-hop sound, the kind of thing youíd probably hear from Paul Simon at this point. The video tries to emphasis the perceived diversity by showing John, his hired bongo staff and a violinist playing in the snow. The whole video is done in modules, just like newspaper design! You can tell John isnít even trying anymore, either. Actual lyric: "I look in the mirror / What the hell happened to me / Whatever I had has gone away." He also works the line, "If this song isnít a hit, Iím going to kill myself," into the third verse. --AH 

The Offspring Ė Why Donít You Get a Job 
The Offspring - Why Don't You Get A Job
     (***)  My roommates and I canít decide. Does this song remind us more of "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" or "Cecilia"? Nonetheless, itís an interesting follow-up to "Pretty Fly For a White Guy" because itís also purely a novelty song. This one is less catchy, floating around problem words like "dinero" and "na-na." The video for "Why Donít You Get a Job" takes advantage of the current trend toward teen movies by serving us some kind of high-school revenge fantasy. Guy hates lazyass girlfriend; girl hates deadbeat, no-account boyfriend. And by the end, the singer has led a rebellious street uprising of disgruntled members of society. It was so much better when the Revenge of the Nerds held it in the form of an altar call. --AH 
     (***)  Iíve gotten to listen to this a few times now, and itís growing on me. What theyíre doing is shameless: crossing late Beatles acid pop with Simon and Garfunkel in what comes down to an exercise in mental masturbation. However, just like "Pretty Fly for a White Guy," it grows on you inch by inch. Give it a couple weeks and Iíll love it. Of course, give it a couple months in steady rotation, and Iíll be groaning. Watching Offspring videos for the last few years have me convinced of one thing: this guy is whipped. First, his girlfriend sleeps with all his friends, and now sheís living off of him. Fear not though, heís about to kick that bitch to the curb. Tip: if you throw up while you girlfriend is giving you a lap dance, thereís a problem with your relationship.  Watch for a cameo by Ray (the wannabe) near the end; itís pretty fly for an Offspring video. --JW 
The Offspring - Why Don't You Get A Job

Beth Orton Ė Stolen Car 
     (*1/2)  I work with a girl who is reading Maya Angelouís I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings because Fiona Apple likes it. I bet that girl knows all the words to this song. I donít know anything about Beth Orton Ė who she is, where sheís from, how she got a record contract Ė but I know this video sucks. Itís in that pissed-off girl vein, half-Alanis and half-Cranberries. She broods on a white soundstage, a guy with a boom mike following her around. He sticks it in her face everywhere you go because, you know, Beth Orton has some very important things to say about life and love. Sheís a very talented young woman and Iím sure weíll be hearing a lot from her in the next few years. Uh-huh. I bet she was one of those girls in high school who never talked in class, always kept to herself and wore long-sleeved shirts to cover the slash scars on her wrists from that failed suicide attempt. --AH 

Primitive Radio Gods -- Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money In my Hand 
     (**1/2)  Okay, it took me half the damn video just to write the song title; whatís up with that? I mean, could we be any more full of ourselves? You have to be pretty confident that your song will be a single to name it something incomprehensible that has nothing to do with the song. OK, so Pink Floyd used to do it all the time, but they just didnít give a damn, which I somehow doubt is the case here. However, lest I dismiss these guys out of hand, this is a very slick video, in an Enigma/Pure Moods II kind of way. Also, thereís some crazy stuff going on that you donít understand unless your mind is altered in some way. At the end of the video, a young girl realizes the phone is broken, hangs it up, and fades away. From the lack of a follow-up, I guess Primitive Radio Gods followed her example. --JW 

The Roots f/Erykah Badu Ė You Got Me 
     (**1/2)  This video could scarcely be more African, but itís damn classy. The Roots are one of the most respectable rap groups on the scene right now (havenít heard Ďem sample a Gloria Estefan single yet) and Erykah Badu is more socially conscious than Ben and Jerry combined. Sheís never seen without a headdress and, if not for the song "Tyrone," youíd almost swear she stepped out of the far-more-stylish 1940s. So who better to deliver this little morality play, where the Roots frontman walks through the desolate city and, the further he goes, the more dead people he sees, lying in the street. Iím sure the white man is responsible for this! --AH 

Semisonic -- Secret Smile 
     (*1/2)  Semisonic does their very own home video. Hmm, the lead singer has round glasses, an Asian girlfriend, and canít get any freedom from a hounding press. Who exactly do you think heís trying to be like? Anyway, why would the press be hounding him anyway, unless my theory about these guys is right, and sheís only 14.  Maybe thatís why itís a "secret smile." Hint, hint. Anyway, this whiny bad excuse for an Oasis video (which is a sad standard to be judged by anyway) is probably too indulgent to actually become a serious hit, but who knows anymore? --JW 

Smash Mouth Ė Walkiní on the Sun 
     (***)  Reasons I shouldnít like this video: it looks like an Old Navy commercial, itís been played on VH1 more than 5,000 times, itís pussy rock disguised as something really clever. Reason I do like this video: I donít have a fucking clue. I think the song is catchy as hell and I almost always dig McG videos, sometimes even if they have Sugar Ray in them. Bright colors, the band flattened out on the concrete, a makeshift beach party and a drag race. The song even has an electric organ solo. Hey, I never said my taste in music was close to perfect. I like Smash Mouthís remake of "Canít Get Enough of You, Baby," too. --AH 

Shania Twain Ė Man, I Feel Like a Woman 
     (**)  I hate country music on principle, but lately Iíve been able to admit that, when youíre in a crowded room with a bunch of people and a bunch of beer, a fast country song can help constitute a good time. This is a fast country song, so thatís worth one star. Shania Twain is damn sexy, too, so thatís worth another star. But thatís where the stars stop. "Man, I Feel Like a Woman" is cosmetically stuck in the Ď80s Ė Shaniaís wearing too much makeup, thereís a double-neck electric guitar and sheís caressing the microphone stand like the King of Bad Ď80s Videos, Sir Robert Palmer. It also doesnít help that Shania is starting to bear a striking resemblance to Sheena Easton. I wonder if David Letterman has ever introduced those two to each other. "Shania, Sheena. Sheena, Shania. Save that money, girls." --AH 
 

Z-Music Video of the Week 

Petra Ė Think Twice 
     (**1/2)  For every Christian band, thereís a secular equivalent. Petraís sound throughout the years has evolved from the Allman Brothers to The Cars to Van Halen to Def Leppard, always strong on power rock and emotional ballads. But the best comparison for Petra is Aerosmith Ė both have been around since the early Ď70s, both were strongest in the late Ď80s and both are just a pathetic shadow of their former selves. In the case of Petra, band members were replaced one by one until finally none of the original ones were left. Theyíve gone through two drummers, three keyboardists and three lead vocalists. "Think Twice," the last Petra song I actually liked, comes from 1995, when band founder and brains-behind-the-operation Bob Hartman decided to retire. That left goofy-faced lead singer John Schlitt to front the band and anchor this video, which is quasi-professional and actually entertaining. The song is about resisting temptation in all its evil forms, so of course thereís a guy dressed up as a snake charmer and a shot of a girl reaching for the forbidden fruit. The best vignette has a teenage guy sitting in a chair as a sexy girl comes by in a low-cut dress to try to seduce him. As flames lick up the side of the screen and the guy actually appears to be aroused, he suddenly jumps up and runs away from the girl as fast as his feet can take him. The members of Petra have saved the day once again. Unless he was running to get a condom. --AH 
 

Classic Videos 
from MTVís "25 Large" hip-hop countdown 

Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliot Ė The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) 
     (***)  It took this video many months to grow on me. I hated it at first, and I still would never buy a Missy Elliot album, but I donít think this could be a more competent combination. A laid-back rapping style, tight Timbaland production and a trippy Hype Williams video to match. And I canít fault Missy for wearing an inflatable trash bag for half the video. She knows sheíll never win any beauty contests and dresses accordingly, kind of like a hip-hop Cyndi Lauper. (Random thought: Why hasnít anyone built a rap song around "She Bop" yet?) "The Rain" is good stuff, but I donít know how the hell it managed to rank #2 on MTVís countdown. --AH 

Ice Cube Ė It Was a Good Day 
Ice Cube - Good Day
     (***1/2)  In 1993, gangsta rappers knew how to be gangstas. Ice Cube was downright scary in the early Ď90s, even when he was rapping this laid-back ode to life gone right. "It Was a Good Day" chronicles a 24-period where Ice Cube eats scrambled eggs, beats the brothas at basketball, rolls his hydraulic-enhanced í64 down the street without getting pulled over, eats hamburgers, drives drunk, wins at dominoes, eats french fries and puts Kimís butt to sleep. Oh, and no one he knows gets killed in South Central L.A. This is a man who knows how to count his blessings. --AH 
Ice Cube - Good Day

L.L. Cool J Ė Mama Said Knock You Out 
     (***)  One of the most sparse videos of the early Ď90s, itís also one of the most memorable. Even people who hate rap music like this song, where L.L. takes a gangsta stance. Heíll shoot you, heíll kick your ass, heíll steal your girlfriend. One day, he may even steal your UPN sitcom. The gritty black-and-white video has L.L. in an empty boxing ring, shouting into the microphone while his sweatshirt hood covers most of his face. Every time he gets to the chorus, there are shots of sweaty boxers falling. See, thatís why the medium of music video is valuable. You hear him talking about knocking people out in the song, but the video lets you see what heís talking about. Unfortunately, it doesnít actually show him bombing a town. --AH 

Notorious B.I.G. f/Mase and Puff Daddy Ė Mo' Money, Mo' Problems 
     (*1/2)  This is when things really started to go awry in the Bad Boy camp. I thought "Canít Nobody Hold Me Down" could have just been a case of self-indulgence and that "Iíll Be Missing You" might have been as bad as it was because Puffy was traumatized by the death of Biggie. But thereís no explanation for this garish, overblown effort, which samples the Diana Ross song "Iím Coming Out" and has Puffy Woods winning a golf match (of course he plays golf) moderated by Mase Gumbel. Thatís not my joke, thatís what he calls himself, and God knows the description applies. Biggie would have bitch slapped both of them if he had seen this. Itís like the kids who throw a party when their parents go out of town; Biggie dies and out come the fly girls, shiny suits and showers of sparks. B.I.G.ís only appearance comes between verses from an old interview, where a bedridden and stoned-as-hell Biggie complains about all the problems wealth has brought him. "Itís just negative energy like my man Puff say." This was #4 of all time on the hip-hop countdown, higher ranked than Ice Cube, Dr. Dre or Public Enemy. Thatís some fucking negative energy, man. --AH 

N.W.A. Ė Straight Outta Compton 
     (****)  I swear Iíve seen this video before, but the moderators of the MTV hip-hop countdown said "Straight Outta Compton" had never been played on MTV. Ice-T seemed kind of pissed about it, too. The video really isnít that controversial, just Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy E and the posse walking the streets like they own them and dodging cops, but rap definitely isnít like this anymore. This is so much more authentic, so much more badass. These guys would drag Puffy and Mase into an alley and pistol whip the shit out of them just for owning Sting and Gloria Estefan albums. "Straight Outta Compton" is one of the five best songs of the gangsta rap era, with a wicked video to match. Shame on you, MTV. --AH 
 

Other Classic Videos 

Rick Astley -- Never Gonna Give you Up 
     (1/2)  Iíve heard that Rick Astley was a sex symbol for about five minutes. I just canít believe it. He reminds me either of Eddie Haskell or the red-headed dork from "Daria." Also, Iím having trouble connecting that deep voice with Opie here. Could it be he got away with what Milli Vanilli went down for? Hmm... anyway, itís videos like this that gives weaponry to detractors of the Ď80s. Bad synth-pop, pansy singer, cute fly gals that are put in the background so we can get extreme close-ups of Rickís freaky-looking, white-Urkel visage. I just donít get it. --JW 

The Bangles -- Walk Like An Egyptian 
     (**1/2)  Sex Symbols. I can see it. Pop stars? Sure, seeing as how we have Britney Spears, I can buy it. Musicians? Well... I think theyíre really playing their guitars, but thatís as far as Iíll go. Their hits were, shall we say, a bit on the manufactured side. Of course, Iím completely confident that everybody was "Walking like an Egyptian" for at least a couple months. Soon enough though, the Bangles posters came down and the Debbie Gibson posters went up. Itís the way of things. --JW 

Men At Work -- Down Under 
     (**1/2)  Ahh, itís Men At Workís "Hi, weíre from Australia" video. According to them, itís about the rape of the Australian wilderness, but Iím not buying it. Not when they barrage us with as many Australian cultural icons as they could fit in. Zombie, Vegamite, Koala bears, etc. etc. The mid-Ď80s saw a strange fascination with Aussie culture. Men At Work winning best new artist in Ď84 was one result; the "Aussie Sub" from Subway was another. You canít get either in America anymore, but theyíre fun to think about. Thatís what this video does to me. Itís fun, but if I saw it new today, it would get little more than a groan. ĖJW

 
 
 
Copyright 1999 Apartment Y Productions