Lou Bega Ė Mambo Number 5
     (**½)  I consider this the 1999 equivalent of Us3ís "Cantaloop," a novelty hit that draws on the styles of the past while attempting to bring it into the hip Ď90s. (By the way, "The Hip Ď90s" will air nightly at 7:00, 6:00 central on VH1 starting in the fall of 2006.) I donít know anything about Lou Bega, and I suspect the general public is equally bereft of information, but "Mambo Number 5" is a slightly catchy, Gap-ready pop hit with bright lights, giant microphones and ancient back-of-the-bus suits. There are also intermittent black-and-white clips of people dancing frantic jitterbugs and blowing horns, invoking the traditions of the past but failing to bring the video any sort of class. How could there be any class? There are damn flygirls in the video, wearing nothing but bras and halter tops. And if you buy the album, you can hear Mambas 6 through 21. ĖAndrew Hicks

Mary J. Blige Ė All That I Can Say
     (***)  Whatís this? Good R+B in 1999, and Lauryn Hill isnít involved? (Actually, she wrote the song and sings backup vocals, but you know what I'm getting at.) A video that doesnít bitch about some deadbeat boyfriend maxing out her credit card? Iím impressed. "All That I Can Say" is one of those videos where everyone seems to float on clouds (itís always impressive to take a two-bit pop metaphor and make it into reality), mingling with skyscrapers. Mary wakes up promptly at 9, her makeup and hair already in place, and sings from her penthouse. Later, statues come to life, two backup Marys appear in cowboy hats and confetti falls from the sky. It doesnít read well and, to be honest, some of it looks pretty damn corny, but it suits this dreamy, midtempo track. Besides, Iím starting to review videos like a frustrated geometry teacher. The students are performing so badly right now that Iím starting to grade videos on a curve, bending over backwards to hand out the occasional thumbs-up when something even mildly interesting catches my fancy. And this does. ĖAH

Chris Cornell Ė Canít Change Me
     (***)  We all wondered what direction Chris would go in once Soundgarden broke up. Okay, we didnít all wonder, but those of us who graduated high school in 1995 were kind of curious. If this single is any indication, itís all about adult album rock for Mr. Cornell. "Canít Change Me" probably wonít even need the customary six-month buffer before itís deemed safe enough to appear on VH1, and it may sound like an insult, but with a different arrangement, Tal Bachman would be all over this song. ("Sheís going to change the world, but she canít change me." I mean, come on.) The video relies on fire imagery, an old staple of the now-dead alternative genre. A rented model rides around town, leaving a trail of fire wherever she goes. Meanwhile, Cornell stands around a back office, strumming his guitar, watching the flourescent lights flicker and listening to his goatee grow. Itís not exactly "Fell on Black Days," but itís above par for 1999. ĖAH

Jennifer Lopez Ė Waiting For Tonight
     (*½)  Who expected this? Jennifer Lopez goes from taking baths onscreen with George Clooney to runner-up for the 1999 Fag Hag of the Year award. (I donít think Cher has to worry, though Ė sheís got it wrapped up.) This follow-up, which Iím pretty sure no one asked for, has Jennifer wandering through the woods, where laser lights flash and hundreds of people shake their bodies. Iím trying my hardest not to make any Blair Dance Project jokes, I promise. Jennifer looks hotter this time, Iíll admit, with pink lip gloss and a painted-on black mini-dress, but I could especially do without the obligatory middle interlude. Jennifer and company count down to the year 2000 out in the middle of the woods, and they all seem happy. I guess she doesnít realize thatís the expiration date on her music career. ĖAH

Ricky Martin Ė Sheís All I Ever Had
     (½)  This goofy-faced Puerto Rican bastard isnít going anywhere, it seems. (Can you believe the fucker won like five MTV Video Music Awards?) Here comes the requisite ballad, with Ricky standing in the middle of a technicolor desert as red and orange clouds fly by and his red-dress rented model strokes giant rocks. Oh, yeah, heavy layers of symbolism in this one. I can understand the Backstreet Boys and ĎN Sync Ė thereís always room for a boy band in a nation full of 14-year-old girls Ė but this guy? He should be washing dishes in a Miami restaurant, regaling all the busboys with tales of how he packed stadiums from Costa Rica to El Salvador in his tenure with Menudo, until he turned 15 and they kicked him out. ĖAH
     RANDOM JEREMY COMMENT: Is this from the What Dreams May Come soundtrack?

ĎN Sync f/Gloria Estefan Ė Music of My Heart
     (*)  God must have spent a little more time driving himself crazy. This is the third straight ĎN Sync ballad to grace the MTV airwaves, only distinguishable from the others in that it features Gloria Estefan. Last time she was granted a comeback, it was because sheíd had a car accident. This time, itís because someone covered "Get on Your Feet" in a Chevy commercial. It doesnít take much these days. The video for "Music of My Heart" features the five ĎN Syncers standing around an empty stucco-covered high school, singing about all the inspiration Gloria gave them. (Even though Iím pretty sure the only advice Gloria gives aspiring artists is, "More conga drums. Use more conga drums. And always wear your seatbelt.") The video is beyond boring, cutting between the guys in an empty hallway to Gloria singing in front of a row of lockers to a bunch of kids sitting on wooden folding chairs. Surprisingly, only three of them are mugged for their lunch money. ĖAH

Q-Tip Ė Vivrant Thing
Q-Tip - Vivrant Thing
     (***)  Our favorite rapping cotton swab is back, freed from the restraints of A Tribe Called Quest and now with 50 percent more cotton than ever before. "Sweeter than Ben and Jerry," he boasts, and only half as gay, to boot. "Vivrant Thing" is a black-and-white, widescreen version of the usual Hype Williams routine, with booty-shaking fly girls and sweet convertibles converging on Q-Tipís row-of-lights bachelor pad. This is the summer rap anthem we needed, about two months too late. Q-Tipís ever-present flow is much more respectable than the hip-hop weíve been subjected to in 1999 but still fun enough to appeal to any partyís lowest common denominator. Letís all hope Madison Avenue doesnít catch wind of this song, or weíll be seeing commercials at late-night intervals, advertising the "Vivarin Thing." CAUTION: Not for use on inner-ear. ĖAH
Q-Tip - Vivrant Thing

Santana f/Rob Thomas Ė Smooth
     (***½)  I donít care if the lead singer of Matchbox 20 is behind the vocals on this song, itís pretty damn cool. Carlos Santana, who I imagine is pretty oblivious to whatís hot and whatís not right now (hey, it could have been worse Ė Santana and Ricky Martin, for example), hides under his giant hat and sunglasses and steals the show from under Rob Thomasí feet with some blazing guitar action. Sorry, I have to sound like Circus magazine every now and then. "Smooth" is a four-minute block party, with Lenny Kravitzís heroin models dancing in the street as Thomas brandishes the microphone and tries to pretend he has soul. Then he walks a camel across the lanes of a bowling alley and Santana gives him a swift kick in the ass. ĖAH

Britney Spears Ė (You Drive Me) Crazy
Britney Spears - (You Drive Me) Crazy
     (*½)  The first few times I saw the trailer for Drive Me Crazy and heard the digitally blasted snippets of the title track, I didnít realize it was Britney Spears. It sounded like generic, session-produced teen movie music, probably recorded by some faceless female whoís been singing commercial jingles for eight to ten years. Nope, itís the raining queen of teen sluttiness herself, now only too willing to bend over in slow motion and show off that B-cup cleavage. She leads a prom full of dancers, appearing first as a bespectacled waitress and later in a jade-colored halter top. The DJ spins a record with her face on it as Clarissa Joan Hart and her love interest from Drive Me Crazy (the guy who looks like a chubby Eddie Vedder) clown and make blender drinks on the side. And this is #1 on "Total Request Live" right now. QUESTION: How many times total does the word "Baby" appear on Britneyís album? ĖAH
Britney Spears - (You Drive Me) Crazy

Classic Reviews

Michael Jackson Ė Bad (1987)
     (*)  You canít consider yourself a true music videophile unless youíve seen the downright hilarious 16-minute mini-movie version of "Bad." Directed by Martin Scorsese (watch for the climactic scene where Robert DeNiro pistol whips Michael) and written by Richard Price, the video begins with Michael leaving his snow-white boarding school for winter break. ("Be good, Mike. And donít turn into a werewolf this time.") What follows is a sequence on the New York subway where, one by one, well-to-do people get off and Michael is left to cruise into the ghetto by himself. He gets haggled by Wesley Snipes ("Hey, college, whatís yoí major?") and generally canít relate to the brothers back home. (God, what a casting against type Ė Michael Jackson as a guy who canít find relevance to black inner-city youth.) One by one, they accuse Mike of not being bad anymore. Guess they havenít heard his music lately. Finally, he has to call in his posse, a band of leather-wearing, ethnically-diverse, buckle-covered dancers whose purpose is to show Snipes and Co. whoís boss. The way Mike proves his superiority, naturally, is by dancing and singing for four minutes, which would prompt a stabbing in the real world. But, scripted exchanges being what they are, Jackson comes out on top. As far as Iím concerned, this is one video that exists only so Weird Al could parody it. ĖAH

2Pac Ė Holler if You Hear Me (1993)
2Pac - Holler If Ya Hear Me
     (***)  The album was called Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.Z., but I picked it up anyway. I mean, I literally picked it up from the parking lot outside my dorm one afternoon, along with the Makaveli Don Killuminati album. It was scratched to shit, but the only song that skipped was "Keep Ya Head Up." The "Atomic Dog" dance beat and repeated "Mama Said Knock You Out" vocal samples of "Holler if You Hear Me" were left intact, and the album provided me and James with many drunken gangsta rap evenings last year. Iíve said it before, and I know Iíll keep saying it in weeks to come, my favorite era for rap was the West Coast, P-Funk-tinged music of 1992 through 1994. I listen to my parking lot copy of Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.Z. more than any rap released this half of the decade, so it was a real treat for me to happen upon this video one afternoon on BET. Anger, guns and bigoted cops abound in the brown-and-white world of "Holler if You Hear Me," a video that was probably purged from MTVís library sometime during Clintonís first hundred days in office. After the cops arrest a black child, 2Pac leads his posse down the street to free some of the captives. They leave Charles Keating where he is, of course. The checklist? Gratuitous money shots, pouring of beer for dead homies, chalk outlines, bonfires, bulletproof vests and target practice. Itís all here, and it makes Puffy seem like an even bigger pussy than we already knew he was. ĖAH
2Pac - Holler If Ya Hear Me

Copyright 1999 Apartment Y Productions