Christina Aguilera – What a Girl Wants
     (*½)  Oh, no, of course Christina Aguilera’s not going to be a one-hit wonder, not with a follow-up single that sees her heading even further into Britney Spears wannabe-slut territory. (You recall the Biblical timeline: "Whitney Houston begat Mariah Carey; Mariah Carey begat Britney Spears; Britney Spears begat Christina Aguilera. Jesus wept.") Actually, I’ll give it to Christina – she pulls off the "New Mickey Mouse Club" sensuality act a lot better than Britney. For one, she doesn’t appear to have had any cosmetic surgery. No, just a pouty face, platinum blonde hair and a stomach almost as sexy as Aaliyah’s, so in the purest pornographic sense, Aguilera isn’t a total waste. The music sucks, though; "What a Girl Wants" is just another sound-alike, syncopated mid-tempo track, half Backstreet Boys and half Destiny’s Child. Aguilera and her dancers lock their male counterparts in some kind of dance hall and proceed to choreograph the very life out of them. Fairly standard, really, except for the blue, ultratight "Girl" half-shirt she’s wearing. She turns 18 next year, doesn’t she? –Andrew Hicks

Tori Amos – 1000 Oceans
     (*)  "These tears I’ve cried / I’ve cried 1000 oceans," Tori announces from the confines of her box. And I’m not talking about her female reproductive system. She appears to be the Girl in the Plastic Bubble in this video, lying in despair as a crowd gathers to gape, laugh and mourn her loss of innocence. As the video progresses, the citizens proceed to riot and burn shit, while the SWAT team is called in, smashing one revolutionary’s face against Tori’s plastic bubble. Oh, I’m starting to see what this video is saying. Tori watches all the world’s injustice from the confines of her plastic bubble, trying to ignore it, never actually doing anything about it, and in the end it undoes her. You know, I always wondered how pretentious this bitch could get if freed of all logical constraints. Looks like we have our answer. –AH

Celine Dion – That’s the Way It Is
     (zero)  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Not only is Celine Dion on MTV again; she’s trying to cash in on the teen music craze. This is a little less syncopated and more jangly than the stuff we’re used to, but it’s still out of Celine’s iron-fisted VH1 ballad jurisdiction. She shouldn’t be doing happy pop. She shouldn’t be on MTV. She shouldn’t be showing off her damn stomach. She shouldn’t be dancing with Cher’s heroin models. She shouldn’t be seducing that twentysomething guy. She shouldn’t be, period. I wonder if 14-year-old girls would be buying her music if they knew she was married to a 60-year-old man. He’s, like, old enough to be her grandpa and stuff. --AH

Fatboy Slim – The Rockerfeller Skank
     (**½)  "The Rockerfeller Skank" has been used in so many commercials and movie trailers that Fatboy Slim’s record company has decided to re-release the video and song to Top 40 radio. And MTV has apparently bitten. For what it is, this song and video package is pretty good, but for the very reason it was re-released, the record company should have decided to let this song be. By now, we can’t hear it without thinking of Sony Discmen, Gap Jeans, Coca-Cola, I mean, I can’t even remember what commercials use this song; by this point it’s just become a corporate blur. Fatboy Slim is the perfect embodiment of what marketers are trying to go for – a safe edginess, something moderately creative but ultimately harmless. You can use this music to sell whatever you want, and the guy’s on so much ecstasy and alcohol he won’t even notice. Okay, you realize I’ve gone an entire review without actually describing the video. It was intentional. –AH

Guns N’ Roses – Welcome to the Jungle (live)
     (**)  Apparently, GNR have some kind of live album compilation coming out from 1988-93 era performances. I guess Axl Rose really needed to cough up some money for the electric bill this month or watch the power get shut off again. But I can’t imagine a less timely video release to MTV than a live version of "Welcome to the Jungle." The song, GNR’s closest attempt at social commentary (right…), seems positively glam now. Hell, I’m sure the original video has cropped up on VH1 from time to time. The live version takes cues from the original, combining performance footage with a collage of news headlines, some involving world melees and others involving the catastrophes the band creates when it goes from town to town. (They’re still banned from St. Louis, remember.) I love Appetite For Destruction and all, but the only true value this video has in its juxtaposition of Monica Lewinsky as Axl sings, "You’re a very sexy girl, very hard to please." Don’t I know it. –AH
     (**)  "You know where you are? You're in obscurity baby! They're not gonna buyyy!" This is what I plan to scream at Axl Rose next time I see him. I mean, who's really going to buy a two-CD live GNR album a good 7 years after they mattered? It's not even a real video, it's just concert footage mixed with news reports of them causing riots, and scenes of death and evil. You know, bombs exploding, speeches by Milosevic, clips from Martha Stewart, etc. etc. So, why did I even give this two stars? Well, once upon a time I loved this song, but that's not the reason. It's cool to be reminded that they nearly destroyed the cursed Riverport Ampitheater, but that's not the reason. The reason is simple -- watch for the clip of the jet nosediving into parade grounds. It's cool. -JW

Metallica with Michael Kamen conducting the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra – No Leaf Clover
     (**)  Leave it to Metallica to do an entire drag-out concert ripped off from Aerosmith’s "MTV 10" orchestra performance of "Dream On." It’s more or less the same situation here – you hear the strings during the intro (which sounds surprisingly like the intro to "Dream On," of all things), then the guitars kick in and 87 pairs of old British ear drums simultaneously blow out. The orchestra is secondary during most of the song; the only time the arrangement really works out is during the perfunctory extended guitar solo. As a video, "No Leaf Clover" is none too exciting. It’s standard concert performance stuff – not good, not bad – but I’m sure the after-party kicked ass. You’ve never seen so many people chugging beer from the belly of a saxophone. –AH

Mos Def – Ms. Fatbooty
     (***)  Yes, the name of this song is "Ms. Fatbooty." You’d expect it to be lowest-common-denominator Juvenile novelty trash, but this Mos Def groove is surprisingly funky. It reminds us what sampled rap should be – mixed and matched sounds from an array of genres. I can’t recognize anything Mos Def lifted here, but it’s more classy and jazzy than anything in Puffy’s collection. The video itself is typical "ride around the hood" stuff filtered through a multi-colored, moving film stock box, with hand-written lyrics and subtle, quick-moving visuals passing over the surface. At one point, a TV ratings box covers the screen. "Ms. Fatbooty" isn’t great art, but it falls into a subgenre rarer and rarer these days – buzzworthy rap. –AH

Notorious B.I.G. – Dead Wrong
     (**)  The title of "Dead Wrong" accurately points out two things – Biggie Smalls is dead, and this release is wrong. It was one thing when they slapped together a video for 2Pac’s "Changes." That at least had a sample that worked, lyrics that meant something and a heartfelt emotion that showed right through the haphazard clips video. "Dead Wrong" has a two-note sample that sounds a lot like the atonal message the aliens sent in Contact, lyrics that are almost half-missing due to MTV Standards and Practices and, well, no visible emotion. No, it has Puffy instead, and that’s hardly a fair trade-off. B.I.G. kept Puffy in check when he was alive; since then, the guy’s run rampant and his overdubbed whispers in "Dead Wrong" are just annoying. The video is put together about as well as "Changes." There are shots from old videos ("Big Poppa" and "Get Money," primarily), concert performance footage, backstage lounging and – my personal favorite – a tender shot of Biggie Smalls lying nude on a bearskin rug. No, not really, but the video does end with the bold declaration that Notorious B.I.G. was "The Greatest Rapper of All-Time." In the Metric-Ton Division, maybe. –AH

R.E.M. – The Great Beyond
     (*½)  I had a bet going with James about the Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon. He thought the R.E.M. song of the same name wouldn’t actually be in the movie; too obvious, he said, and Michael Stipe is too pretentious to allow such a thing. I disagreed – I knew R.E.M. had sold their souls to the devil a long time ago, and I couldn’t put anything past them. I bet "Man on the Moon" would appear at least twice in the movie and that the score would probably be built around it. As a sneak preview showed, I was right, but I can say one good thing about R.E.M. – "The Great Beyond" is their best-sounding single since the Automatic For the People era. Even if, as Stipe claims in the chorus, he’s pushing elephants up the stairs. And even if, I’m sad to report, the video is hard to take. Stipe is starting to look more and more like Paul Shaffer with every new video. ("So he asked you if you had any gum?") He’s traded in the feather boas this time for the striped Polo and bright red pants of a Sunday-afternoon golfer, and since most of the video takes place in the studio and the rest is clips from Man on the Moon, I’m ready to just go ahead and declare this a non-video. Except for the part where the band is trapped in a TV and manages to knock if off the counter by banging the microphone stand against the inside of the screen. That part is kind of clever. –AH

The Wiseguys – Ooh La La
     (***)  Ideally, the medium of music video exists to create a microcosm, short-film universe where one four-minute block of time is completely disconnected from the next, where creativity rather than shameless self-promotion directs the vision. I don’t know who The Wiseguys are – I’ve never heard of them, and I have a sneaking suspicion they’re the two plain-looking geeks, one bearded and one bald, who get on the plane early in this video – but they turned out a hell of a fun four minutes with "Ooh La La." The song itself is an electronic dub groove that owes itself to both Jock James and Mexican lounge music. The video is full of Offspring fly girls who cat-dance on runways and play provocative flight attendants who patronize the passengers. It’s bizarre, it’s goofy and aside from a few perfunctory "AMP" airings, you’ll never see it on MTV. --AH

Classic Videos 

David Bowie and Queen – Under Pressure (1981)
     (***½)  Despite the savage raping Vanilla Ice gave this song (I still residually flinch when I hear the opening bass guitar line to "Under Pressure," before realizing it’s the real thing and not the honky rap rip-off), it’s one of my favorite tracks from Bowie and/or Queen. And the video completely has the right idea – instead of focusing on the no-doubt fruity visual stylings Bowie and Queen would have lent it, it assembles stock footage from old newsreels and horror movies and comes off looking like a very well-made student film. Buildings crumble, cars get thrown on the junk heap, werewolves howl and, eventually, all is reconciled with a series of old movie kisses. –AH

Mariah Carey – Vision of Love (1990)
     (***)  Oh, Mariah, what happened to you in nine short years? You were so sweet and charming in this video, and I was 12 and didn’t realize how bad the music actually was. I still don’t fully comprehend how bad the music was – dammit, I love every song on Emotions and all the hits from her debut album. "Vision of Love" was the first coming of Mariah Carey, the 19-year-old, big-haired Mariah who was willing to just lounge around her big, empty house and watch a reddish, manufactured cloudscape go by. Simplicity, that’s what this video is, simple as the black pantsuit she’s wearing, and it works. When used properly, Mariah has an elegant voice, and this is still an elegant video. –AH

Men at Work – Who Can It Be Now (1982)
     (*½)  "Who Can It Be Now" is one of those videos so old that the lip synching doesn’t even match up with the song. The band members are about a quarter-second behind the actual song, and it’s off-putting, as are the Australian singer’s exaggerated Roberto Benigni pantomime antics. The premise of "Who Can It Be Now" – and I do like the song, I swear – is that the protagonist hides in his apartment all the time, afraid to answer the door. I don’t blame him, though, because the people who are knocking are just plain weird. Walking down the hall with saxophones and shit. This hasn’t held up well, to say the least. –AH

Copyright 1999 Apartment Y Productions