Kevin Aviance – Rhythm Is My Bitch
     (zero)  Videos like this make me wish Beavis and Butthead were still around. Kevin Aviance is an enormous black man in drag, part Debo from Friday, part Grace Jones and part RuPaul. Shaved bald, slathered in gold lipstick and wearing gaudy genie earrings, he announces, "I am the dominator, you are the servant and the rhythm is my bitch," and unleashes four minutes of spoken-word techno terror upon the audience. All the while, he is surrounded by dancers who resemble Stephen Tyler and Mick Jagger in bad dresses. (Maybe they are Stephen Tyler and Mick Jagger – sobriety and old age can drive a rocker to inexplicable things.) Honestly, I thought crap like this went out with 2 Unlimited and Snap. This guy has to be British. –AH 

Filter – Take a Picture
     (***½)  Damn, this is good. This is Filter? James and I have decided that "Take a Picture" sounds like ‘80s U2 crossed with Duran Duran. The soaring acoustic guitar track, ponderous whine-filtered Smashing Pumpkins vocals and solid percussion prove this band is capable of moving past the industrial metal it made a name with. And the video is just as sweet, with blue and purple visuals of a plane crash at sea. As the flaming wreck surrounds him, the singer lies on his back, floating. Eventually the rest of the band plus a blonde debutante (think her name is Rose) ends up underwater – it looks a lot like the "Come Undone" video minus the cross-dressing. Across the board, this is one of the best-sounding songs of the year. –AH
     (***½)  Suddenly, I'm watching Duran Duran's "Come Undone" all over again. Filter's newest effort sounds anything but a song by Filter, and is better described as '80s U2 mixed with '90s Duran Duran, like the credits should say, "Words and Music by Simon Lebon and The Edge." Of course, for those of you who don't get that, The Edge is the name of U2's guitarist. Bono came up with it. Are you surprised? Neither am I. Getting back to the point, I'd best describe this video as an expression rather than try to sum up some kind of plot. Oh, and surprise-surprise, Filter actually seems to have something to say other than "Yeah, we stole this idea from Trent Reznor, too." Some imagery -- Filter plays in a house as it fills with water, eventually moving up to the roof, because the entire house is under now. I guess it's a metaphor for every rock stars eventual fate. He then suggests we, "Take my picture, because I won't remember." At least they're realistic. Still, for now they've put together a song and video that I'd rank among the years best. And thanks to the nature of MTV right now, I probably won't even get sick of it. --James Wallace

Ice Cube f/Mack 10 and Miss Toi – U Can Do It
     (**½)  The first time I saw Friday was during government class my senior year in high school. We had a substitute that day (who happened to be African American), one of the students (who happened to be African American) had a bootleg copy of the movie (which happened to star African Americans), and somehow he talked the sub into letting us watch Friday instead of the planned educational video. I’ll admit, I didn’t quite get it at first, but a certain herbal substance opened me up to Friday and it’s become an Apartment Y favorite. A cliché, almost. The sequel, which comes out next month, probably won’t live up to the humor and characters from the first, if "U Can Do It" is any indication. Instead of the old-school ‘70s R+B feel of the first one, we’ve got plenty of over-syncopated new-school percussion and a porn-star sidekick in Miss Toi. The video, which features clips from Next Friday (not to mention obtrusive movie posters in the background), takes place in a dark nightclub. Smoke, strobe lights and guest appearances abound as Cube raps in front of a giant stone bust of himself. I swear to God, it looks just like the exaggerated carving of Dr. Evil from Austin Powers 2. And Ice Cube clinches it when he turns to Mack 10 and says, "Is it a hollowed-out volcano like I asked?" –AH

KoRn – Falling Away From Me
     (**)  It picks up where "Freak on a Leash" left off. Charming. You know, I always find myself liking KoRn songs until they get into the actual song part. The intro groove, guitar and drum line is always kind of interesting, but beyond that it’s the same subdued metal rap-hop every time. If I had to pick between KoRn, Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock, though, it would be these guys. Like the last couple presidential elections, it’s a lesser of three evils type of situation. And, hell, they were funny on "South Park." This video comes to us courtesy of Fred Durst, who is trying to gain auteur/CEO status all of a sudden. (Worse, someone seems to be letting him.) It involves the usual standbys – the abusive father figure, the strobe lights, the fire, the mobs of pissed-off youth pumping their fists and announcing that they don’t need no education or thought control. Actually, I believe you guys could use a generous helping of both. –AH
     (*½)  I'm sorry, I like Korn, but I can't give this any credit. It reuses all the ideas from their last album, but seems to lack any kind of musical quality at all, like they just created a lot of white noise to scream against. Not only that, but they seem to be falling in line with all the other rap/metal/shit bands out there, which is a shame because they're better than that, and they were the forefathers of it anyway. Visual images of domestic abuse, dark cartoons... yawn. The conclusion I make from the whole thing is who needs Korn at all? Why not just use computers to make a bunch of random background buzz, get Todd McFarlane to animate it, get some people to make scary Halloween noises and call it a day? --JW

Kottonmouth Kings – Bump
     (*)  Sometimes you run across something so bad it can only be Christian music. From the moment you hear these guys announce, "We’re the Kottonmouth Kings and we don’t give a fuck," you know that isn’t the case. But those of you who went to private schools will remember a Christian singer by the name of Bryan Duncan who tried to do a rap song somewhere around 1987. His rap voice – nasal, highly amusing and pathetically white – was purely laughable, and I’ve never heard anyone come close to duplicating it until now. You just can’t take "Bump" seriously, not its progressive immersion into Limp Bizkit territory, not its Onyx-like screamed chorus and certainly not the low-budget skater half-pipe antics of its video. –AH

Ricky Martin – Shake Your Bon Bon
     (zero)  No. I refuse to shake my bon bon for this talentless, hideously overexposed Menudo alumnus. Why is he still around? Why couldn’t "Livin’ La Vida Loca" be it for the poor bastard? It was more than he deserved to begin with. Nonetheless, the fact remains, we have to deal with this video, which offers us an inside first-look at what Ricky’s exciting Pepsi-sponsored world tour will be like for teenage girls and housewives everywhere. Well, he’s going to wear tight lyrca pants, there will be an endless series of girl dancers in boxes above the stage and, if we’re lucky, he’ll have to slip off of at least some of that intricate scaffolding. Also, "Live Cam 1" and "Live Cam 2" will record the action for the big video screens, for those people in the nosebleed sections. I can’t imagine a worse evening than being in the nosebleeds at a Ricky Martin concert. –AH

Maxwell – Let’s Not Play the Game
      (**½)  I’ve heard more than a few music critics say that, these days, Maxwell does Prince better than Prince. As much as I love Prince (whose Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic came out a couple weeks ago, and it kicks ass), I have to admit "Let’s Not Play the Game" is smoother than anything Prince has put out in awhile. Smooth is definitely the best word for Maxwell; his singles always have lush arrangements, well-placed guitar licks and silky vocals. This track from The Best Man, which I’m sure was intended to be smooth in its own right, has a gimmicky video to accompany it. The premise is familiar – Maxwell sits around his overfurnished crib while couples freak-dance all around him, and the only difference is the frequent use of the freeze-frame. The action stops every few seconds while the camera continues to roam. We’ve seen this in Eminem videos, Brandy videos, hell, even 98 Degrees. Here, it’s almost a distraction, but somehow it adds to, yes, the smoothness. –AH

Powerman 5000 – Nobody’s Real
     (*)  You know how The Police filmed the videos for "Roxanne" and "Can’t Stand Losing You" back-to-back with the same set, costumes and everything? Powerman 5000 seems destined to the same career path – these guys are still "in character" with those neo-science fiction space suits, cartoonishly bleached hair and video sets that came from Alien 6: This Is The Last Sequel, Really, We Swear. –AH

Jessica Simpson – I Wanna Love You Forever
     (*)  Britney Spears and Brigette Wilson had a child, and she ran off and stole Mariah’s voice. She even stole Mariah’s ballad formula and her film-a-video-in-an-airplane-hangar routine. Bland is the only word for this, so bland it’s almost offensive. I’m optimistic that music is swinging back in the right direction – there have been some good albums out this fall – but there are still always going to be artists that manage to smuggle their automatic weapons of mediocrity through the metal detector of pop music and hijack our precious airtime. That metaphor was probably a little much, but damn, I’m getting sick of this tweenie-bopper shit. –AH

Classic Videos

Ice Cube – Check Yo Self (1993)
      (***)  You know exactly what kind of person you are when awoken in the middle of the night and faced with the following question from the operator: "Will you accept a collect call from Ice Cube?" From his 1993 Predator album (the two themes – the LAPD suck and so do white people), "Check Yo Self" is the more obscure video sequel to "It Was a Good Day." As you may recall, at the end of the first video, Cube’s house was surrounded by all manner of fuzz. "Check Yo Self" picks up with the handcuffing, fingerprinting and trip to the coroner. And of course there’s an interlude where he collect calls his girlfriend and is phone-checked by a huge man who ends up as the prison bitch. ("Big D’s in your mouth is bad for your health.") In the end, it amounts to a simple plot – a sympathetic prison guard with a nice booty helps Cube escape in the middle of the night. You probably won’t see this video pop up again anytime soon, but you should track it down if you’re into early ‘90s West Coast rap. I recall the MTV version was chopped to hell but the BET version was untouched. The network hadn’t yet assumed any responsibility for lyrics dealing with weed, robbery, murder and the ever-popular "nappy dugout." –AH

Billy Joel – You’re Only Human (Second Wind) (1985)
     (**)  You know, whenever I have writer’s block or can’t track down an old video to review, there’s always a Billy Joel video waiting for me on one of my VH1 History of Music Video A-Z tapes from 1993. This embarrassing concept video from his first greatest-hits collection sees Billy as some kind of trench-coated Ghost of Christmas Future, happening upon a clean-cut American teenager who is about to jump off a bridge. ("I’m not surprised to see you here, either," the kid says. "I heard your last album, man. You want first-jump?") Billy spirits him away and shows him all the great times he’ll be missing – namely, marrying his cute, blond girlfriend and saving someone from drowning. Oh, and there’s an absolutely hilarious scene when the police come to tell the kid’s parents that he killed himself, and the kid and parents both just lose it. Or maybe I have a sick sense of humor. –AH

Copyright 1999 Apartment Y Productions