REVIEWS -- APRIL 21, 2000
Christina Aguilera – I
Turn to You
(**) Hmm, it’s a new look for Christina. She must have put on the “instant sorority chick” facial base for this video. It seems that Britney Spears has some competition for her roles as “Queen of Slap-on Beauty” now doesn’t it? Also isn’t it weird that she sounds more like Mariah Carey than Mariah Carey these days? Christina sings her little song, with the pre-requisite backing synth and the required “this is a ballad” acoustic session guitar. For the background story, we get Christina frolicking in the rain witnessing human misery. There’s a car crash, and the girl’s mother rushes to the scene. Much melodrama ensues, and they finally express their love for each other. Great. I suppose if she has to survive the teen-pop backlash, I can handle it. The girl has some range, I’ll give her that much. It’s all very inspirational, now isn’t it? –James Wallace
Mary J. Blige – Give Me You (Nino Remix)
(*) This is like the shit chicks like Ce Ce Peniston put out in the early ‘90s, just pitiful dance music underscored by bare-chested BET rental models. The song was no good the first time around – with its domesticated, Diane Warren feel – but in treading Whitney-remix territory, it reaches new heights of blandness. Nino’s contribution is the standard high-hat disco sound (yeah, there’s a disco ball in the video, along with plenty of those trippy, swirly things that spin around). I can’t put my finger on just where this video went wrong, except to say “fag hag” really shouldn’t be in Mary J. Blige’s job description. –AH
Bush – Warm Machine
(*) “How does it feel, knowing you won’t be able to be with the one you love during her pregnancy?” a perky bitch from Jailbait asks in the intro. Yes, Gavin Rossdale knows a thing or two about jailbait, although his main problem now is that the jailbait that bought his first two albums has stopped spending out of Daddy’s pocket and moved on. (That’s the only circumstance under which I see myself purchasing a Bush album – that shit’s definitely coming out of Daddy’s pocket.) That said, this is a total non-video, an assembled collection of cheaply shot concert footage and rent-a-soundstage-for-an-hour lip synching. I’ve got a friend who just figured out the guitar solo before it was over, which can’t be saying much. I figure we may still have to deal with the intermittent Bush video for another five years or so because Gavin is still going to be (arguably) cute enough to get on MTV for at least another presidential administration. With Al Gore at the helm, who knows? –AH
(* ½) The video opens with a fake newscast that would shame Dr. Dre. We learn about the plight of the poor lad being sent up the river for not checking www.statuatory.com for the laws in his state before violating that little cookie in MTV’s Jailbait. A mistake I would never make, of course. It then shifts into footage of screaming teenage fans (Umm, where were these people hiding?) crying and making a beeline for the band. The rest of it is just Gavin Rossdale and the gang wearing black and singing in downtrodden tones. It’s pretty weak musically, even by Bush’s standards. Our friend Kevin was none too impressed with the musical style, and proceeded to play leads for it. What followed went something like this:
Kevin: Well, they never stopped ripping off Nirvana.
James: Why mess with the basics?
Andrew: That’s the irony. Gavin Rossdale would never shoot himself in the head. It would have spared us about 7 more albums of this crap.
James: Well…he could have some help…
Andrew: He’ll be a pretty boy for at least 5 more years, so MTV will keep showing his face.
James: (sounding like Dr. Evil) Right…
Andrew: Come on James, you know even though you want to kick his ass, you’re still attracted to his pretty little face.
James: Strangely Andrew, that’s the same way I feel about you. –JW
Common – The Sixth Sense
(***) “The revolution will not be televised. The revolution is here.” So a voice intones at the beginning of this Common video, and I think I speak for everyone when I say, Thank God! Lead us to victory by violent overthrow, scruffy-headed rappers of the group Common! Okay, I act condescending, but I actually like this video – it basically is a four-minute depiction of a city riot, with the rappers alternately slow-riding through the scenes of destruction and spewing lyrics at the crowd through a megaphone. (“I said, ‘Would you like to suck my balls, LAPD officer?’”) So, yeah, this video definitely falls into the “$20 Sack Pyramid” category of Shit I Came Up On Loot. Chaotic and kind of cool, and <newspaper ad quote selectors, begin your cut and paste here> you’ll never guess the secret ending to “The Sixth Sense!” <end cut and paste>. –AH
(** ½) Yeah, yeah, the revolution is here, and you guys are going to bring it to us. Don’t believe them? Well, look around this video: angry black men alternately rapping in the back of hoopties, threats of violence to the establishment, and riots, death and destruction. There are some cool moments, and it seems to be in the gangsta rap tradition, but for the most part it just makes me pop The Predator or some Rage Against the Machine In. But like my man Richard Pryor say, there’s no justice, just us. -JW
DMX – Party Up
(*½) Given up on our Romeo Must Die songs, have we? Well, I don’t blame you, D. The movie sucked. Best to focus on your trademark brand of scruff-rap. “Party Up” definitely qualifies as a legitimate entry to that genre. You may ask yourself, what’s DMX’s idea of partying up? As this video teaches us, it’s robbing a bank. Yeah, the whole video concerns DMX and his accomplices (brandishing walkie-talkies, all) knocking over the local money repository while DMX chants, “Y’all gon’ make me lose my mind / Up in here / Up in here / Y’all gon’ make me act a fool / Up in here / Up in here.” There’s some hostage interplay (“When I say ‘up,’ you say ‘in here.’ Up…” “In here!”) and the eventual dispatching of the SWAT team. Oh, and the United Nations building is somehow involved. It takes a special kind of hostage scene to include dancing fly girls. –AH
Goo Goo Dolls – Broadway
(**) Dizzying up the girl yet again, the Goo Goo Dolls are currently trying – without much success – to carve a piece of the MTV scene. Amidst the Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears especially, the choreographed dance scenes in “Broadway” (spoofy as they are) just plain don’t work. You knew it was only a matter of time before the Goos tried a parody video, and the naked guys and Kravitz look-alikes running through this one just don’t cut it. My favorite failed sequence: Johnny Rzeznzizk and the other Goos looking in on a room where a lab-coated doctor tries to teach some confused punks step-by-step instructions for head banging. Like the fucking Goo Goo Dolls have any room to be snide about what true rock is. –AH
No Doubt – Simple Kind of Life
(**) She kind of always knew she’d end up your ex-girlfriend, but Gwen Stefani never quite gives up. Here, we see her wandering from scenario to scenario (her red-and-white hair never wavers, though), apparently running through each band member while sporting different versions of the red-and-white hair. We’ve got the Kelis look, the Cher look, the Courtney Love look and the ‘80s porn star look. (You’d assume those last two would be redundant, but you’d be wrong.) It all boils down to Runaway Bride marital angst, with Stefani running around town in a Cyndi Lauper-style wedding dress, snatching a baby up from a cemetery-side road and wielding baseball bats among a sea of wedding cakes. Stefani and the boys rip through the overwhelming series of cakes like Sting knocking over candles in “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” but it’s the only sequence that works in this calculatedly alternative video. Gwen, don’t forget, the wigs have to be back by six or you lose the deposit. –AH
(**) Well, it seems that No Doubt come to reap the rewards of the monster they’ve created. Thanks for killing alternative, you freaky haired bitch! Umm, anyway…my feeling on both of the No Doubt videos I’ve seen thus far is “who cares?” It’s the same punk-pop from Tragic Kingdom, but without the catchy hooks that made it interesting, or at the very least tolerable. This is definitely the worse of the pair, since “Ex-Girlfriend” at least had a few nifty guitar lines and a catchy chorus. This one though…OK, we have No Doubt running around like idiots knocking shit over, and touchy feely moments where Gwen laments (you guessed it!) her lost love. She sings, and their lead guitarists sits in the background and plays a few sentimental acoustic chord progressions before moving back to standard pop-ska guitar. Back to the hair though. Did you ever Friday the 13th Part V? Remember the Pat Benatar girl who bought it in what I like to call the “New Wave Death Scene?” Ahh, we can only hope… - JW
Britney Spears – Oops… I Did It Again
(zero) Life on Mars? Britney Spears is it, it seems, and wouldn’t you hate to be the astronaut sent to explore that uncharted territory? Okay, so we all know that territory is in fact very well charted, but it would still be enough to make a dedicated NASA officer fall to his knees and cry out, “It’s earth! You damn dirty teen idols!” I’m not even going to go into bad puns based on the title of this song – seeing as her album is also called Oops! I Did It Again, there are destined to be a lot of bad puns on the record-review circuit, anyway. Instead, I want to focus on the fact that this song is exactly – I mean, chords, tempo, synth noises, vocals – identical to “Baby One More Time.” I mean, dead on the money, this is the same fucking song. Can she get away with this? Will the teen bitch actually have another diamond-certified album? In the video, Britney appears as a red-leather dominatrix with whip (“I’m not that innocent.” No, that’s not the whip talking.) and proceeds to lead a bunch of white-clad vixen-extras in a choreographed dance. The set for “Oops” isn’t that elaborate, although the proliferation of light bulbs makes it appear that way, and neither is anything else in the video save the ass-funny interlude written by (let me take a wild guess here) Britney herself. The astronaut in question presents her with the Heart of the Ocean necklace from Titanic. “But I thought the old lady threw it in the ocean,” Britney protests. The astronaut replies, “She did. I dove down and got it for you.” Give me a fucking break. –AH
(zero) With a song that sounds just like “Baby, One More Time”, Britney switches it around on us by combining the gloss of “Drive Me Crazy” with a bunch of space jargon and special effects. We can watch this and insert the “Britney Noiseä” (you know, the one that sounds like she’s still getting over her breast surgery?) at the right moments, and it sounds exactly like every other Britney song you’ve heard, and all the ones you’ll hear off Oops, I Did It Again. Give me a break. Oops, I did it again Britney. Oops, I wasn’t aiming for your ass, I swear. Did what again, anyway? Forgot to take your gum out of your mouth when you went to bed? Forgot how to walk? Woke up naked outside Alpha Omega Beta? Nothing would surprise me. At one point in the video, a smitten spaceman leaves Britney a parting gift: The Heart of the Ocean from Titanic. An astonished Britney asks “Didn’t the old lady throw it in the ocean in the end?” “Yes, but I went down and got it,” he replies. Two things worth noting: first, Britney loved Titanic. Second, she wants guys to jump into the ocean for her. Funny, because I’ve often wished she would do the same thing. -JW
Carl Thomas – I Wish
(**) Well, isn’t this an anomaly. Who is Carl Thomas? Why is he single handedly trying to bring back the genre vacated by the likes of Brian McKnight, Maxwell and, if you go back far enough, Ray Parker, Jr. (god forbid). “I Wish” is synthesized piano-dance R+B made safe for the supermarket – equal parts Muzak and soul. As such, I’m conflicted. I kind of like this, but at the same time I feel like I should be waiting for the nurse at the dentist’s office to call my name so I can go in for my checkup. As a matter of fact, I can faintly smell the nitrous oxide the more I listen to the vocal stylings of Carl Thomas. Actually, I think those are the tubes of nitrous oxide I picked up at the local health food store. You didn’t think I was just shopping for ginseng root today, did you? No, man, I’m loaded up. –AH
(**) Yawn…wanna-be Lionel Ritchie or maybe really wanna-be Stevie Wonder. Carl is supposedly playing the piano here, but I have my doubts. It’s Muzak through and through, and completely forgettable in a “Yes, you’re going to leave this on Soft 103 and make babies” kind of way. -JW
Green Day – Basket Case (1994)
(***) I hated these guys when they first came out. Hated them. I guess I was offended by their overall lack of musical sophistication and maturity, and I got over it real quick. Considering some of the rap music I like, it’s hard to fault any artist for not being sophisticated and mature. And who would have known that, a few years later, Blink 182 would make these guys look like The Beatles? The video for “Basket Case” is the best-looking of the Dookie trilogy, a washed-out Mark Kohr video full of grainy, pastel colors. It’s set in a mental institution, of course, and Billie Joe and the boys are catatonic patients who only come alive when they’re playing their three-chord music. The video is rounded out by shots of the Green Day guys taking their pills, tossing file cabinets at meshed-in windows and cracking up in the public shower facility. “Basket Case” barely cracked MTV’s Top 100 videos last December, and I can agree it deserves a place somewhere in those lower reaches because it’s a solid video and it actually captures a time and spirit. Dammit, why do I already look back on 1994 like it was as edgy and idealistic as 1969? –AH
They Might Be Giants – Birdhouse in Your Soul (1990)
(***) James’ birthday was in mid-June. I presented him with the TMBG compilation video Direct From Brooklyn in mid-August as a belated gift, and it’s joined the ranks of our classic late-night offerings. That’s because the Giants make good on the promises of their wacky lyrics and all-over-the-map production with trippy and sometimes creepy videos. The clip for “Birdhouse in Your Soul” fits right in with the Giants mold – it’s the most accessible of their singles but probably the band’s strangest video. We do see plenty of vocalist John Linnell’s “little glowing friend” (no, that’s not what I meant), but otherwise the video bears scant resemblance to the song that spawned it. It’s pretentious and geeky, yes, but that’s exactly what you bargain for when you watch a Giants video. And I’ve gotten as much enjoyment out of the collection as James has, I wager. My only question now is, should I go ahead and purchase the Death Row Uncut video collection now, in mid-April, for my other roommate, whose birthday was in mid-January? –AH
(***) Ahh, the video that proves that John Linnell is a pretentious bastard. Despite the goofy lyrics and accordion music, I’m convinced that he think thinks this is art. The video sure has the feel of a final art project, with weird flickering lighting making Linnell fade in and out, both John Linnell and John Flansberg doing interpretive dance, and various crowds participating in what I can only describe as “happenings”. Overbearing and artsy out the ass, it still has that certain Giants quality that can only be described as “good times.” -JW