Destiny’s Child – Say My Name
Destiny's Child - Say My Name
     (**½)  Such are the times that we actually have to endure a third single from Destiny’s Child. I don’t want to date myself, but I remember the days when a girl group who put out a novelty song like “Bills, Bills, Bills” would score once and fade into oblivion. Not anymore. Fortunately, “Say My Name” actually has some interesting things going on visually. There’s an interesting type of vertical letterboxing that has almost a home-movie squareness to it, and it cuts between four nearly identical living room sets – in each, the girls, the furniture and the room itself are all made over in one color. Blue, red, orange, white, and as the video goes on, shit starts to slide from set to set. The portraits creep up the wall, the orange couch slides into the blue room, etc. It’s the kind of visual chaos only an interior decorator on shrooms could dream up, and in typical short-attention-span fashion, that motif gives way to a standard smoky-nightclub dance sequence. Shame; the color-coded craziness had me exactly where I wanted to be. I still am finding myself more intrigued by this than I should be. If it wasn’t 4:40 in the morning, this definitely wouldn’t be getting the rating it is. –Andrew Hicks
Destiny's Child - Say My Name
Destiny's Child - Say My Name
     (*½) Why is this TLC façade being allowed to continue? I guess TLC isn’t emphasizing their man-hating aspects enough for the female R&B crowd. For some reason, every Destiny’s Child video reminds me of being in a ghetto hair salon. The way their hair is set, the way the changing furniture color scheme matches their outfits, they way they gleam… it all reminds me of mousse. The idea of this video is that their men have been acting a bit off lately, so they must be running around. So they prance around the Vidal Sassoon apartment and tell off their ever-changing lineup of bewildered. Guys, I feel for you, I really do. –JW
Destiny's Child - Say My Name

Jay-Z – Anything
     (zero)  Oh, dear Christ on the cross, Jay-Z has raided his grandmama’s showtune collection again. I guess it’s come full circle – his obnoxious post-breakthrough single “Hard Knock Life” was a direct lift from an Annie song, and now he’s gone to the other end of the cute-orphan gender spectrum by sampling a track from Oliver! I should make this clear – I don’t like Annie, I think it’s shit, so I wasn’t that pissed off when Jay-Z cannibalized one of its tracks. On the other hand, I love Oliver!, grew up with the damn thing, was talking Cockney all through my childhood. If I figured any song would be sampled, it would be Oliver!’s “Hard Knock Life” sister track, “It’s a Fine Life.” But Jay-Z went straight for “I’d Do Anything,” one of the more bland numbers in the middle. (You know, the song where Oliver and Dodger confess their puppy-like love for Nancy in Fagin’s hideout.) Where does a ghetto-living gangsta even hear this shit in the first place? He took the original vocal, laid a vaguely “Hard Knock” bass line and Rugrats-sounding nursery-rhyme synth. It’s horrible, godawful, and the video is more sentimental rap-from-the-hood stuff, with wistful basketball court shots, family bonding and driving scapes. There might be a plot to this, but I’m too appalled overall to distinguish. This unclefucka just keeps picking the wrong pockets or two to pick. –AH
     (zero)  When Andrew told me about the sample from this video, I was slightly amused because I knew how much he loved Oliver! (no, I didn't ask about it either.) Of course, it's always funny until it happens to you, which I found out as soon as I sat down and watched the video. Those who have been with us for awhile may remember the pain that "Hard Knock Life" caused me. Well, it's back. I mean, this isn't quite as bad, since the bass line isn't causing me to break out in seizures, but it still fills me with disgust that MTV is showing this crap when there are actually decent rap videos out there! But anyway, the video is a montage of shots from Jay-Z's childhood, showing how much his mother did for him: getting him dressed, feeding him, making sure he didn't miss his "special" school know, the usual. Of course, he'd do anything for her in return, including making rap songs out of showtunes. What do you want to bet this fucker spends his free time parading in front of a mirror while listening to The Best of Andrew Lloyd Webber? --JW

Kittie – Brackish
     (*½)  Ahh, I heard this was coming… female thrash metal, in all its glory. It’s about what you’d expect: angry young women, randomly pierced and badly made up, wearing wardrobe half-stolen from Courtney Love and Lita Ford, respectively. As for the sound, it’s part No Doubt whining, part Hole whining and part Korn whining and screaming. I see the possibility they could churn out some interesting music a la L7 if they just got over themselves and how oppressed they seem to be. The video is just a concert, with grunting skinheads jumping around to the thrashing power chords, and fade shots going from band member to band member in a style that was worn out in the pre-video era of the 60s. As for the song? I have no fucking clue what it’s about, and I doubt that they do either. –JW

Korn – Make Me Bad
     (***)  Okay, this is much better. I have a theory that Korn is gradually warming the MTV audience up for some genuinely good music. Of course, given the current climate, they have to take it one step at a time. The music to this song still sounds like Korn’s last album, but it has a depth to it that definitely wasn’t there on “Follow Me Down.” The video is a marked improvement as well. Still going on the theme of being abused, now we get to see the guys in Korn holed up in some kind of futuristic military hospital, where they seem to be the subject of a cruel experiment headed by a military colonel (who is played by the guy who usually plays bitter old gays in art house films) and his female aide-de-camp. They play off each other like Boris and Natasha. What is this cruel experiment, you say? Seeing how many tattoos they can fit on their forearms? Nah. Seeing how much pain can be inflicted with treble switches and distortion boxes? Not even. No, our boys have been injected with parasites that are going through their bodies, causing pain whenever Boris flicks a switch. Maybe this negative re-enforcement technique is how the record execs forced them to get a new album out so quick. I wonder if the same thing could be used to shut Fred Durst up… Anyway, at the end, the parasites are removed and the evil ones are free to begin their nefarious plan, with a new song starting up in the background to tell us that without a doubt, this is to be continued. I wonder why they feel the need for all their videos to connect together? Maybe they saw “Voltron” too many times and figure their combined mega-video can defeat the TRL beast where their single ones failed. If this is the case, I can’t wait until one of them is killed, and replaced by the Princess. Woo-hoo! --JW

Lil’ Zane – Money Stretch
     (**)  “Money stretch like a rubber band.” This and many other bad similes come from the mouth of Lil’ Zane, who answers his phone at the beginning of the video by picking up and yelling, “What what?” The video progresses much like the new Fiona Apple track, with Zane getting out of bed, dressing up and preparing to leave the mansion (is he housesitting or what?). After that, it’s standard gangsta-rap territory, nondescript but tellingly flashy – shots of cell phones and even Gucci bags grace the screen. Film buffs will be interested to know it’s filmed in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with white lines at the top and bottom of the screen. Okay, I’m reaching for things to say, but other than the fact that this is from the Next Friday soundtrack and features the movie’s Mexican gang members, “Money Stretch” is just another faceless video. Even with its Ice Cube-endorsed pedigree, I doubt the shelf life of Lil’ Zane’s video stretches like a rubber band. –AH

Aimee Mann – Save Me
     (**)  Hey, I loved Magnolia as much as the next pretentious intro-to-film student, but I thought this ‘Til Tuesday singer’s frequent contributions to the film were a weak link. She sang “One Is the Loneliest Number” so long I was wondering if she was trying to prove six- or seven-hundred as the loneliest number. And the “Wise Up” lip-synch sequence? Not my forte. Surprisingly, director Paul Thomas Anderson gathers his entire cast for this video and then doesn’t use them in any song-and-dance shit. They (William H. Macy, Tom Cruise, Philip Baker Hall, etc.) just kind of sit impassively while Aimee sings to them and the furniture moves around the room (it’s from the Destiny’s Child collection). These actors look about as morose as I would if I couldn’t get rid of Mann wherever I went. Essentially, this is a four-minute commercial for Magnolia, which I don’t mind, but I’d much prefer it if Anderson just stuck with directing videos for his girlfriend Fiona. –AH

No Doubt – Ex-Girlfriend
     (**)  Gwen Stefani has picked a bad time to dye her hair pink, considering there’s now a Kelis-clone wig-hop singer named Pink with bright, obnoxious hair of the same color. This Hype Williams vehicle only serves to remind us that No Doubt is still doing the same watered-down ska-punk shit – no changing for the times for these guys. Oh, wait, they do employ a Dr. Dre whistling synth and Sugar Ray “Fly” mandolin effects. That’s innovation. “Ex-Girlfriend” may be the song/video package that finally turns me against No Doubt. I’ve always kind of liked their sound, and I even broke down and grabbed myself an MP3 of “New” from Napster the other day, but this overblown ode to hubris just doesn’t cut it. I’m going to sum up this video, where Gwen has apparently decided to take on the Mafia, by describing one vignette scene. Clear your mind of all preconceived images and picture this: Gwen in a hooded black sweatshirt and Groucho moustache stepping up to a urinal in a public restroom, unzipping and apparently relieving herself for a few seconds until her hot pink hair (i.e. head hair) is revealed and she maces the shit out of a dumb-henchman black guy and proceeds to kick in the wall tile. Now try to erase this image from your mind and just pray this song will fade before it actually grows on you. –AH
     (**)  I honestly didn't think we'd hear from No Doubt again. I figured they just came in, helped wreck alternative music and faded out. Even their appearance on the Go! soundtrack last year didn't shake my belief. Unfortunately, the members of No Doubt seem to be back in the embracing arms of MTV once again, and this time even further from their Ska roots. It’s not as if No Doubt ever sounded like The Specials or Less Than Jake or anything, but the ruse seems to have now been completely dropped since, hey, ska has pretty much died along with every other viable music form of the ‘90s. In recognition of this, Gwen has dropped her “alterna-chick” look and settled into a more traditional punk girl appearance, pink braided hair and all. The whole look of the video reminds me more of vintage 1980s Bow Wow Wow than anything remotely connected with the last decade. Needless to say, the whole thing gives me a bad feeling about times to come. Hmm, I suppose I should actually talk about the video, seeing as this is a video review... Gwen fighting off bad guy Mafia types, assuming male gender roles until she’s discovered because of her (gasp) long pink hair… yadayadayada. I can’t quite condemn the video, because of all the worse stuff out there, but I just hope it goes away. Oh, and Gavin? We know this song is about you, buddy. Becoming an art-rocker won’t save you from Gwen’s wrath. –JW

Pop-Up Video: VH1 Storytellers – Elton John
     (***)  When I caught this on TV the other day, I couldn’t believe VH1 was belittling one of their own programs like this. But as it went on, I realized that it’s so much more entertaining this way. I’d much rather watch blurbs making fun of Elton John pop up while he’s playing than just staring at an empty stage and listening to his asinine stories. I learned all sorts of interesting things that Elton would have left out. For example, apparently the audience questions were staged for the purpose of promoting his upcoming book. I learned the root of his hair job (pun intended), I got to watch the “Bennie Meter” go up as audience appreciation during “Bennie and the Jets” soared. Most importantly, I was informed how long it was until the audience was allowed bathroom breaks, thus being able to judge how much of their applause was genuine, and how much was because they had to take a leak.  What must be shared though, was this gem from “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”: 
     POP-UP VIDEO BLURB: Elton had been gone down on 18,422 times by the time of this concert. 
     POP-UP VIDEO BLURB: By the sun. 
     POP-UP VIDEO BLURB: Scientists predict the sun will go down permanently in 5 billion years. It will expand to 100 times its original size and then shrink…
     (pause and focus on Elton John)
     POP-UP VIDEO BLURB: Into a white dwarf. 
     God those guys have a great job. –JW

Slipknot – Wait & Bleed
     (*)  Man, I’m sorry, but what the hell is this? “Wait & Bleed” is all low-budget concert clips of a band with gas masks and such (dreadlocks protrude from one) jamming outdoors for the kind of crowd whose sheer numbers a band like this definitely couldn’t produce on its own. The opening act, are we? Ready to be tear-gassed, are we? Growling angrily, are we? Well, I don’t fucking buy it. –AH 

Will Smith – Freakin’ It
     (*½)  I tried counting the number of times Will says “freak this” in the song and gave up around 275. It’s rigoddamndiculous. The man is an egomaniac, and he’s lost the charm and knowing humor to back it up. We don’t need action-hero rappers anymore – the LL Cool J days are over, and put a fork in Puffy (a pitchfork, I hope). Video concept? Will romps around his hometown of Philadelphia in various bright snow suits with his family-friendly posse of little kids and well-scrubbed homies. The city council couldn’t have subsidized bigger propaganda; hell, even the cops are smiling and singing along. (Only Will Smith has the power to put the police at ease and keep their billy clubs sheathed amidst a veritable sea of energetic black faces.) The song, meanwhile, is more of the same, “Damn, I’m great, I’m rich, my songs are tha bomb!” shit, neatly sidestepping the fact that this “multi-platinum black” is stuck in the same disco-sample ego-trip rut we have up on in 1998. (“They say I’m soft,” Will brags. “Yeah, more like Microsoft.” I agree, man; these days, you’re about as hip as Bill Gates.) The chorus of the song is an exercise in tedium: 
     WILL SMITH: Y’all want me to freak this? 
     CROWD: Yeah yeah. 
     WILL SMITH: Cause I’m about to freak this. 
     CROWD: Yeah yeah. 
     WILL SMITH: And you know that I can freak this. 
     CROWD: Yeah yeah. 
     WILL SMITH: I’m qualified to freak this. 
     CROWD: Yeah yeah. 
     WILL SMITH: And I really love to freak this. 
     CROWD: Yeah yeah. 
     WILL SMITH: Y’all can’t go home until I freak this. 
     CROWD: Yeah yeah. 
     WILL SMITH: So hurry up and let me freak this. 
     CROWD: Yeah yeah. 
     WILL SMITH: Here I go, ready to freak this. 
     CROWD: Yeah yeah. 
     WILL SMITH: Wait, let me tie my shoes fo’ I freak this. 
     CROWD: Yeah yeah. 
     I’m betting at least one of the cuts on the MC Skat Kat album has better flow than this. –AH
      (**½) What did I just trip over? Oh, it’s Will Smith’s head. Yes, Will Smith’s decade long ego trip seems to have ended it’s world tour with this video, which just sums it all up: yes, he is the shit. Don’t believe me? Well, peep this list: he’s got money, album sales, awards, Jada, phenomenal cosmic powers…Not to mention all of his amazing outfits, of which he shows off several hundred in this video. He plays pro ball, he visits adoring fans, he ends world hunger...To top this one, Will is just doesn’t to have to return to life after three days. I shouldn’t reward such megalomania, but the shamelessness of it all just impresses me. Don’t worry though, I’m convinced the smug bastard will get his…some day. Maybe when he makes his run for his unprecedented fifth term in presidential office. You think I’m kidding. Just wait. –JW

Sonique – It Feels So Good
     (**)  Cher’s opened quite a can of worms. Synth-driven Dance Mix USA pop is making a comeback (do the words “Da Ba Dee” ring a da ba bell?), shit so innocuous and fluffy and safe it’s bound to end up on Pure Moods Volume 4: Girls’ Night Out. Sonique (doesn’t that sound like a hair-care product?) has to be British – American black girls don’t sing songs like this. She might even be Seal’s little brother, the one that escaped the house fire. Sonique is a waitress in real life, working hard for the money it seems, but she dreams of being a dance diva (“You know that I can freak this… cause I’m about to freak this… let me take a pee, then I can freak this…”), of headlining nightclub raves where gorgeous Lenny Kravitz heroin models creep around looking bored and hungry. There are plenty of loving, erotic shots of such white women in this video, and I’m sure at least one of them fantasizes about being a waitress. Life is full-circle like that. –AH

Shania Twain – Rock This Country
     (*½)  Does Shania really enjoy dressing up like Barbarella and shit? I have to admit, I only stop on CMT when one of this chick’s videos is on – traditionally, country has been kind of an unattractive medium. Think about it, you have to be a depressed, whiny redneck to be a country singer, and I assume most of them are depressed over their giant chins, eyes set too close or general facial asymmetries. Shania, though, is perfectly free to wear that silver lycra and stomp the stage in the lackluster “Rock This Country” concert video. Isn’t the title clever? Shania (or her producer-husband, anyway) is making a fortune putting a rock spin on the country formula and thereby, say it with me, rockin’ this damned country music. Uh-huh. This song has no crossover potential whatsoever – it’s actually the most country-sounding thing I’ve heard from Shania. It does have marked spank potential, but I’d rather not comment on that. It’s almost six in the morning now; anything goes. –AH 

Classic Videos

P.M. Dawn – I’d Die Without You (1992)
     (***)  I take a lot of shit for it, but I geniunely like P.M. Dawn’s 1993 effort The Bliss Album. You know, the follow-up to Of The Heart, Of The Soul and Of The Cross: The Utopian Experience, or whatever that album was called. When people think of the New Age rap shtick of P.M. Dawn, they probably think of their two sample-heavy ‘80s homages, “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” (which lifted Spandau Ballet’s “True”) and “Looking Through Patient Eyes” (an update of “Father Figure” from George Michael), but this soulful piano ballad from the Boomerang soundtrack (I know, I know) tops both those tracks. No rapping, singing. As a matter of fact, the skinny guy from the group has nothing to do in this video but harmonize occasionally – other than that, it’s the guy in the tie-dyed muumuu doing all the work. The video is simplistic, with a lot of blue-green water imagery and a stark-white grand piano set that exists only to show overhead clips from Boomerang. But for the song, it works. I guess it goes to show, though, that the very image you created can also help kill you if you’re not careful. Everyone was sick of the laughable New Age posturing and TLC-sized hats, and P.M. Dawn’s one-trick act faded into oblivion. I know they’re still making albums now, but do they still follow the same formula? I’m curious. –AH

Jade – Don’t Walk Away (1993)
     (**½)  Does anyone but me actually remember this R+B girl group from the early ‘90s? It dates me, but I always thought of Jade as the trampier version of En Vogue. The three girls in the group spend most of the video grinding on a staircase, trying their hardest to look seductive while wearing university sweatshirts that have been cut and rolled up in revealing ways. It’s kind of laughable. More laughable is the fact that, in my shoebox of disowned CDs, this one is in there somewhere. I bought it at a flea market in Colorado, summer of 1994, when I was visiting my dad. There was one music booth set up where all the CDs were five bucks and had X’s written across them in marker, and I think I bought something like 26 CDs that week total. My dad was giving me money for helping sell his blown glass, and I was handing it right back over to the other merchants. So that shoebox is full of X-marked five-dollar CDs – Wreckx N Effect, Duran Duran, Xscape, all sorts of embarrassing shit. But I actually do get a little nostalgic for “Don’t Walk Away,” and I hope somewhere out there, another person besides queer-bait Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone has the same reaction. Well, shit, I even remember Jade’s 1995 comeback single “Every Day of the Week,” from the Beverly Hills 90210: The College Years album. Never claimed I wasn’t a dork, you know. –AH

MTV's most-played videos of all-time

4. The Buggles – Video Killed the Radio Star
     (***)  Was there any doubt that this would be the one millionth video? Think about it: it’s the first video ever played on MTV, and now it just happens to be the one millionth, and the 4th most played. How ironic. Of course, like all the other lemmings, I tried to get through for my chance at a million. I figured if nothing else, I could tell Carson Daly off on live television. Alas, it was not to be. I know you’ve seen this, so I won’t go into it too much, except to say that it almost seems to have a museum quality to it now, like: “This is the first video played on MTV, ever.” I wonder what it would be like, never really seeing a music video, to turn on my brand new cable setup and see this. I just honestly wouldn’t know what to make of it. Of course, my snotty comments wouldn’t have had an audience back then, so maybe it’s best that I’m dealing with it now. –JW

3. Dire Straits – Money for Nothing
     (****)  Through much of my youth, this was my favorite song and video. Up until a couple years ago, the Dire Straits were still one of my favorite groups. (Don’t ask how I survived the ‘90s holding on to that one.) My, how times change. In it’s defense though, this is a cool video. The first to use computer animation of any sort, in some ways it’s a lot more revolutionary than even “Sledgehammer.” Is there anybody who hasn’t seen this? Animated workers griping about the rock stars on TV who don’t really have to work while they’re breaking their back hauling microwaves around. A couple of fun facts: the “videos” in the video were actually staged and made by European artists who thought Dire Straits were producing their first music video! Of course, MTV loved the theme of the video, and took it with absolutely no irony, making it one of the most played of all time. --JW

2. Run DMC f/ Aerosmith – Walk This Way
Run DMC f/Aerosmith - Walk This Way
     (****)  Despite what this caused (even though I’m not going to put the full blame of Kid Rock on Run DMC), I still love this video. Although as I’ve said before, I’m sure it took several bottles of Wild Turkey before Steve could be persuaded to walk Run DMC’s way, it’s still cool to see worlds colliding like this. Of course, Carson could only see fit to give me about a minute of the video… luckily though, I have it on tape, so to paraphrase what I was going to say to him on the phone, “Screw you, frat boy!” –JW
Run DMC f/Aerosmith - Walk This Way

1. Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer
     (****) The most played video of all time, and very possibly the coolest ever made. It still blows my mind that Peter Gabriel sat still for all that tormenting stop-frame animation, when just a few years later it could have been done with computers. If you had MTV in the ‘80s, you’re familiar with the video to the point of absurdity, and if you’re not… well, find it. That’s all I have to say. One interesting factoid though: apparently, MTV has played this video so much that Peter Gabriel wrote in and asked them to stop. Of course, as has been the case with the rest of the 90s, he was ignored. –JW


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