REVIEWS -- APRIL 7, 1999
Fiona Apple – Criminal
     (***)  She’s been a bad, bad girl… You know, this is less a music video than soft-core porn, and that’s why I like it. Aside from my near-famous anecdote of coming on to the TV screen a couple years ago when I was drunk and this video came on, I’ve never written about "Criminal." Let me make this clear – I don’t respect Fiona Apple. She’s a whiny, pretentious brat who’s headed for rehab any day now. But damn, she’s sexy in this video, where she lounges around her house and hot tub, removing more clothes as the video progresses. Her bony ribs, narrow butt, miniscule breasts, they’re all on display here. There’s even a cameo from Maya Angelou at the end as "Catholic School Girl #3." This video still scores an 8 on the masturbation scale. –Andrew Hicks

Deborah Cox – Nobody’s Supposed To Be Here (remix)
     (*1/2)  I’m pissed at BMG. I’ve been sending my cards back on time, I swear, but last week they sent me the new Deborah Cox and Monica albums, unprompted, unwanted and only $15 each. I made the mistake of giving them my credit card number, so now they’ll never refund my money on purchases like this. On the darkest shelf of my bookcase lie, unopened, the aforementioned two albums plus Aretha Franklin’s A Rose is Still a Rose and the new CD from Jon B., whoever the hell he is. They never screw up and send me albums I would actually listen to. BMG is evil. If you want to strike a bargain with me for any of those four CDs, e-mail me and I’ll see what I can do. I don’t think any of them will prove themselves to be the next Sgt. Pepper. --AH

Five – Slam Dunk
     (*)  After whining like a bunch of pussies in their last three videos, the guys of Five now collectively want to be badasses. Hence this hardcore white-boy dance video, which is now officially the 300th pop song of the ‘90s to open with the line, "Do you wanna get freaky?" No. No, I don’t, not with a group of guys who wandered into the Capitol Records office about a year ago thinking it was a fraternity they could pledge. Appropriately, this video has plenty of basketball imagery, including a rotating-net shot that I doubt will be nominated for any technical awards this year. "Slam Dunk" also comes with its own rap verses that ensure it will be extra embarrassing when shown in ten years. Why do these boy group efforts keep reminding me of Six Flags lip sync videos the really dumb guys in your class used to make for fun? I wouldn’t mind slam dunking all one, two, three, four, five of these fuckers. --AH

Ice Cube -- We Be Clubbin'
     (**1/2)  I had to go back and watch this video a third time, because the first two times I tried, I just couldn't figure out what the hell was going on. There are two Ice Cubes – an evil gangsta Ice Cube, and a superhero Ice Cube that the man orders to fly through tubes and wipe out the evil version. Okay, that sounds like a good metaphor for Cube's career in the last couple years. Don't get me wrong, he's still one of my favorite rappers, but let's face it, everything since Tupac died has been kind of... tame. Still, the remnents of the angry as hell Nihilist who made The Predator is still there, so I have hopes he'll remedy this situation. --JW

Wyclef Jean f/Refugee Allstars – We Trying to Stay Alive
     (***1/2)  Lauryn Hill drops Wyclef and his boys off at the disco, warning him not to get in any trouble now. But we all know when you mix rap, the Bee Gees and Roman Coppola, there’s going to be some damn trouble. This 1997 video, built around a sample of "Stayin’ Alive," was the first and best from Wyclef’s first round of solo videos. The evening starts out nicely, with Wyclef and his girl disco dancing it up, until one of the Allstars takes the floor, takes the mic and takes Wyclef’s girl. Not good. What ensues is a near-remake of Michael Jackson’s "Beat It" that turns out to be a lot more entertaining than Mike’s journey into street-hood territory. Somehow it’s easier to imagine Wyclef in a choreographed brawl. --AH

Baz Luhrmann – Everybody’s Free (to wear sunscreen)
     (zero)  How to explain this soon-to-be forgotten video? It’s a lame four-minute motivational speech about how we should appreciate our bodies, dance for fun and avoid beauty magazines because "they will only make you feel ugly." This sounds like a high school graduation address gone horribly wrong, or even a ‘50s instructional film, and the video is just as lame. Stock footage of city streets, happy families and clip-art graphics punctuate phrases like, "Don’t mess too much with your hair or, by the time you’re 40, it will look 85." I’ve got some advice, too: If your name is Baz, you’re better off staying out of the music industry because it is far too superficial for you. If you want to do spoken word music, either be amusing and angry like Henry Rollins or contemplative and emotional like the guy who bitched about Vietnam in "19." If you’re going to make a video, appear in it. Don’t rely on clip art. If you’re MTV, don’t put this shit in the Buzz Bin like it’s automatically too deep for us to understand. If you’re a music-loving layperson, don’t request this song. It smears the entire medium of music video. It doesn’t belong here. Baz Luhrmann, get your ass over to Shawn Mullins’ house so you can both talk about how you have everything figured out. Don’t bother us again. Who am I kidding? We know you won’t. --AH
     (zero)  You know, just because the millennium is fast approaching doesn't mean we have to put up with tin-plated philosophers with a synthesizer. Actually, I have two theories – the first is that this guy is sitting somewhere in his rented flat that used to be a warehouse laughing his ass off. It goes with my Devo theory, that nobody could actually have been taking themselves seriously when they made that video. The other theory is much scarier, because it's that he honestly things he's going to change the youth of America with four minutes of ranting set to a beat. He was sitting in said rented flat, and suddenly an inspiration overcame him. "The youth of this country are a bunch of shiftless slackers who aren't ready for the real world. I'll give them my message, so they can be preperared for the challenges of life ahead! It is my Jihad!" Personally, I think he should take some of his own advice, and remember to wear sunscreen on the beach. Maybe then he wouldn't be so delusional. –James Wallace

‘N Sync – I Drive Myself Crazy
      (1/2)  I’m not going to make any puns on this song’s title, because that would be too easy, just like it was way too easy to make this video. Sometime this week on MTV News, I expect to see Kurt Loder introduce an interview with ‘N Sync ("Our top story today, ‘N Sync has another shitty video out!") where the boys in the band talk about how much fun they had romping around the padded room and wearing straitjackets. Somehow I doubt it’s the same mental hospital that houses Green Day in the alternate universe of the "Basket Case" video, or there would be boy group smeared all over the walls… And wouldn’t you know their "doctor" is gorgeous? Bad as it is, this is an interesting video to watch, because these boys really think they’re acting. Remember the people in high school drama class whose every performance came out exactly the same? Put a straitjacket on them and you have this video. --AH
     (*)  Apparently, the boys from ‘N Sync have all mistreated some poor girls and have been locked away for it. Come, join us as we listen to their tales of woe. What follows is ‘N Sync recreating how they were bad boys and didn't give the loves of their lives the love and respect they deserved. Remember the message here, teenage boys of America -- mistreat your women, and they're going to lock your ass in the loony bin! Fret not, though, teenage girls of America age 11 to 16, because in the end, ‘N Sync is vindicated and we learn that in fact it was their girlfriends who acted in a callous and uncaring manner. All those fast women get dealt with, too. Serves them right! --JW

Jennifer Paige -- Sober
     (**)  Ah yes, the follow-up single no one will remember. You have to admire Jennifer’s effort, though, as she tries to draw the attention away from her hit "Crush" with her near-hit "Sober." (Question: Do all the songs on her album contain five letters?) Near as I can tell, she spends most of this video in an empty bus station, lying on the floor and wondering where the hell her man is. Don’t worry, Jennifer, he and the rest of the boys in Five will be off-tour soon. It’s just a little crush, after all. --AH

Will Smith – Men in Black
Will Smith - Men in Black
     (***)  For all the reasons I hate Puffy, I should probably also want Will Smith dead. This video is a shameless movie ad and its chorus and music are sampled generously from the disco hit "Forget Me Nots." But, as James and I have addressed before, Will is probably the most likable celebrity in the world. The video is basically done on sets from Men in Black. Will wears his costume from the movie and even dances with a computer-generated alien. Someday dissertations will be written about how some pop stars manage to be embarrassing and still enjoyed by people like me who think they’re above that sort of thing. There’s some psychological basis for it, but I’ll probably never figure it out. Until then, another thumbs-up for a Will Smith video. --AH
Will Smith - Men in Black

Tin Star -- Head
     (**1/2)  Three guys in bad leisure suits perform in an empty aircraft hanger. In the middle of the song, the lead singer gyrates wildly while rapping like a wannabe Beck. I kept expecting some sort of salivating alien to burst out of his chest cavity. Well, once again, I was disappointed. Bad lighting and jerky movement can't save this video's complete lack of a concept. I was marginally impressed by the song, but even then I couldn't help thinking about the malaise period that alternative rock seems to be wallowing in. This competent but utterly forgettable video tells me that we must be on the verge of something big. Until then, well, break out your Nirvana albums, and batten down the hatches. --JW

TLC – No Scrubs
TLC - No Scrubs
     (**1/2)  The first time I heard this song, I had no idea it was TLC. It sounds like one of those novelty dance songs that comes from a group no one’s ever heard from and will never hear from again, like "Short, Short Man" and "C’Mon Ride It (The Train)." Admittedly, though, it’s kind of catchy, one of those songs about the no-good men who go after the girls of TLC. The video looks like a direct combination of Michael and Janet Jackson’s "Scream" and Busta Rhymes and Janet’s "What’s It Gonna Be." It features the familiar high-tech silver set, the complicated and disturbing bondage gear, the pretty women with way too much makeup and the angry glares into the camera. It even has the fancy artist-and-title intro that I speculated a couple weeks ago might be making a comeback. Looks like I could be right… Is it just me or was TLC a lot classier the last time around? --AH
TLC - No Scrubs
     (*1/2)  TLC asked for no scrubs, but apparently nobody listened when they hired a director for this video. But you know, they went chasing Waterfalls, and this is the result. My guess is they had some effects left over from the Busta Rhymes/Janet Jackson video, so they got saved the trouble of having to come up with their own concept. TLC tried playing it deep and sensitive a few years ago, but now they come true to form and show they're all about the Benjamins. Cars, DVD, fancy food, and maybe some new clothes so they can stop having to wear bondage gear. That's what TLC is looking for. So remember, they don't want no scrubs watching this video, and a scrub is also known as a buster, so you non-Rolex wearin', no six-figure job havin', at McDonalds every week eatin' pranksta's betta stay away too. --JW
TLC - No Scrubs

Classic Videos

The Cars – Drive (1985)
     (**)  Taking a cue from the really boring ‘80s videos for those Genesis/Phil Collins ballads, the first minute and a half of "Drive" shows the singer sitting alone in what looks like a classroom desk, looking straight ahead and singing the song. He’s a hunky mother, too, blond perm waving in the breeze and the top three buttons of his Izod shirt undone. Meanwhile, Ric Ocasek consoles his messed-up girlfriend, who’s crying on her bed one minute, laughing the next and sloppily running her hand through her hair shortly after. What an oddly confusing scenario. --AH

Nine Inch Nails -- Head Like a Hole (1989)
     (*** 1/2)  God bless you, Trent Reznor. They can try as hard as they like: Marlilyn Manson, Korn, Satan, whoever; they'll never match the pure and simple malaise evil that Trent Reznor displays so expertly. This is Trent pure and raw, before anybody was talking about "alternative" or "Closer" was appearing on Aaliyah's Top 25 countdown. The video itself is expressionist, with scenes of the band playing and breaking shit interlaced with nightmarish, disconnected scenes that would make David Lynch cream his jeans. With another album due out shortly, my hope for 1999 musically is kept alive. Errr, sorry about the God thing... --JW

Prince and the Revolution – Raspberry Beret (1985)
     (**)  Anyone who regularly reads what I offer knows, I love Prince’s music. I constantly have to defend myself against people who credit themselves as having far superior music taste. I tell them that if they would just get around his hermaphroditic image and ego trips, they would really enjoy the music. But I’m usually set way back by Prince’s videos, which are the filmed equivalent of fruit cocktail. "Raspberry Beret," one of Prince’s big ‘80s hits, has but a simple soundstage video to accompany it. The blue screen has puffy white clouds to match Prince’s suit coat. His hair resembles Jocelyn Elders’ on a bad weave day. There are random balloons. Someone is playing a sitar. There’s a brief animated sequence. It’s a mess. –AH

Rick Springfield – Jesse’s Girl (1981)
     (*1/2)  Poor Rick Springfield. Not only has his soap opera been canceled, but his friend Jesse has a hot girlfriend and Rick wants her. In 1981, I think Rick would have had a fair shot at winning her over. Now? Shee-it, no. He does have some damn white teeth, though, we learn as Springfield first stalks the girl then plays guitar in front of a brick backdrop. In one of the first real instances of special effects, they match-cut shots of Rick playing guitar with Rick singing alone. It’s the same as the editing in Hall & Oates’ "Private Eyes" video, also from 1981. And remember the part where Rick sings, "I been looking in the mirror all the time wondering what she don’t see in me"? Well, visually, you have Rick staring into the mirror, the neck of his guitar peeking into frame as a still shot of Jesse’s girl gazes at him from beyond the mirror. How far technology has come. –AH

Copyright 1999 Apartment Y Productions