REVIEWS -- JUNE 16, 2000

                       Bon Jovi – It’s My Life
Bon Jovi - It's My Life
     (**)  A supporting role in one little submarine movie, and suddenly Jon Bon Jovi has a career again? Is that how it works? I’m sure Daryl Hall and John Oates will be taking some serious acting classes before casting begins for U-572. Okay, I guess enough time has gone by that Bon Jovi can at least have a successful reunion tour if not the full-scale comeback that Def Leppard so prayed for last year around this time. “It’s My Life” sounds like a strained power-pop cross between “Livin’ on a Prayer” (it has the whoa-whoas and everything) and “Summer of ’69.” It’s pleasant enough but ultimately unremarkable, although the Wayne Isham-directed video certainly tries hard enough. A clued-in young hipster is surfing the web for Bon Jovi stills (and, I think we all know, if you’re a teenage male in the year 2000, that’s a fetish worse than kiddie porn) when his girlfriend calls. She tells him he has five minutes to “get down to the tunnel,” where Bon Jovi is performing. Of course, after this five minutes, Bon Jovi’s cumulative 15 minutes will be over, so this kid had better hurry. So, as Isham cuts between performance shots of Bon Jovi – who I believe is being filmed for the first time in the Barbara Walters, “No, I’m Not 60” lens – and the kid trying to get there. Without giving too much away (ha-ha), I will reveal that the sequence involves some dogs, a Matrix-style spinning-camera freeze frame during a stunt jump, and an oil tanker. (Joseph Hazelwood is just as eager to get to the Bon Jovi performance.) I’m not really averse to this video, but I also don’t consider its banishment to VH1 a crime against humanity. –Andrew Hicks
Bon Jovi - It's My Life

Busta Rhymes – Get Out
     (**½)  I can’t really tell if this is a parody of Jay-Z or just a stylistic acknowledgment from Busta Rhymes that he thinks that kid-music / sing-song style can be cool sometimes. No matter, it’s not really Busta’s shtick, although he can’t be accused of not having fun with it. (During the chorus, he weaves his way around a prerecorded group of kids singing “Get out of here.”) The end result, though, has a Badass Factor of nearly zero – this is the cutest gangsta shit I’ve seen in some time. Not only is there an intro that has Busta spending some quality time with one of his seeds and demonstrating his ever-patient parenting style (“I’m a throw you in the laundry box.”), but there’s also a disturbing level of precocious children. It may even surpass the Paula Abdul “Forever Your Girl” in that sense, but I like the white letterbox during the outdoor scenes – definitely a Jay-Z motif – and the kids carrying nightsticks. (“Respect my muhfuckin’ authoritah!”) This may grow on me, or I may be repulsed in a month. I can’t yet tell which. –AH

Mariah Carey – Can’t Take That Away (Mariah’s Theme)
     (zero)  What we have in “Can’t Take That Away” is something I never thought I’d see – a Mariah video that’s too bullshit for MTV. Even the venerable cable giant, purveyors of bullshit for almost two decades now, scoffed at the notion of putting this testimonial-laden video into heavy rotation. It’s beyond-words bad, the kind of pap that suggests – no, outright says – that the encouraging words of Mariah Carey can do such things as make a veteran gang member into a high-school football star, keep AIDS patients alive and healthy and make teenage girls forget about their weight problems. (“I was really worried about my weight until I saw the spare tire on that hoochie mama Mariah Carey. Thanx, Mariah!”) All this through the magic of trite lyrics and cutoff shorts that reveal one’s butt cheeks. Mariah spends the duration of her theme song sitting around her apartment, watching these testimonials and composing lyrics. (“Hmm, what rhymes with ‘totally sad’?”) It amounts to a vanity project more self-indulgent and godawful than anything I’ve seen from the boy bands. I’ll be very surprised if, when all is said and done, “Can’t Take That Away” doesn’t turn out to be the absolute worst video of 2000. –AH

Lara Fabian – I Will Love Again
     (*½)  I was a little discouraged when I woke up this morning. (And, I’ll have you know, I did wake up in the morning today. I’ve suffered my second-shift transgressions in the past, but I’m usually out of bed these days around 10 a.m.) But I was reassured, buoyed even, in the knowledge that this chick, Lara Fabian, will love again. Good for you, Lara. Cling to love, because you probably can’t count on your career to save you. I mean no personal harm to you, but let’s face it – you look like an unholy cross between Fiona Apple and Tori Amos, you sound like an unholy cross between Celine Dion and Cher, and your debut single is bland, you-go-girl neo-disco. It all adds up to nothing, basically, and there’s a video to match. Fiona Amos is sitting in a chair, on some stairs, an so on, in various soundstage lip-synch poses. All the while, a gang roams the streets and Amos stalks them through an underground walkway. And this girl has really got no rhythm. Bottom line – it sucks. –AH

Macy Gray – Why Didn’t You Call
     (***)  You don’t understand how glad I am there’s finally a third single from On How Life Is. The world at large really shouldn’t have gotten to know Macy “Hooks” Gray through “I Try.” It’s so much more made-to-order-adult-contemporary than the rest of the album. “Why Didn’t You Call” is a more representative sample of On How Life Is, and it’s a more laid-back video. For once, Hype Williams has given us something that’s not over the top and doesn’t bathe its stars in more makeup than Joan Rivers is wearing at any given moment. Don’t expect anything auspicious here – after losing that Best New Artist award to Christina Aguilera, Macy is back on a shoestring budget. (Plus, I think the record company knows this doesn’t stand a chance of making it on MTV.) “Why Didn’t You Call” is just your standard one-set soundstage video, although it compensates with high fashion and a general predisposed attitude toward fun. The video opens in shadows, focusing on a feather-boaed Macy, whose hair – and I don’t mean this in a bad way – looks like a series of brown broccoli stalks. (Hell, maybe the broccoli-hair thing is in this summer.) There’s also an array of backup singers – borrowed from Pink Floyd, I suspect – and heroin models. Borrowed from Lenny Kravitz, I suspect. This is an all-around pleasant video to watch. –AH

Lit – Over My Head
     (*½)  I was wondering what the token soundtrack video to Titan A.E. would be. Even though the movie’s trailer pimped out Creed to no end, the gig has gone to Lit, who have since climbed off Pamela Lee’s ass and into deep space. The video for “Over My Head” takes place partially on a soundstage and partially on sets that are designed to resemble locations from Titan A.E. It then cuts between those sets and the actual animated locales from the movie, making it painfully obvious that the two only somewhat resemble each other. Yeah, the scene where the lead singer pretends to shoot an animated laser gun at some bad guys from the movie is just pathetic. (Man, you’d be much better off with the personified cartoon bullets from Eddie Valient’s gun in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.) The song is simple three-chord rock that exists musically on the same level as Blink 182, nothing even remotely stand-out. I mean, the song Metallica did for M:I-2 is cooler than this. –AH 

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication
     (**½)  Ah, we’ve finally reached the fourth single from Californication. Two more, and we’re into Janet Jackson territory. This title-track video is set up like an elaborate Playstation game, only I’ve seen much better animation on the Playstation. The best sequence this video has to offer has a virtual Flea snowboarding down one of the cables holding up the Golden Gate Bridge. The Chili Peppers also ride on the back of a dragonfly (“Dad, don’t eat me! Mahhhhhhhm!”), run through a city in the throes of destruction and navigate their way through the water level. Sometimes, the internal video game actually follows the lyrics of the song. Other times, it doesn’t, but it always includes live-action interludes that have the Chili Peppers – shirtless, all – performing in front of a blue-screen cloudscape. It’s nothing spectacular, the kind of video befitting a fourth single from the same album, but it’s 20,000 leagues better than most of the other TRL garbage out right now. –AH

Jessica Simpson – I Think I’m in Love With You
Jessica Simpson - I Think I'm in Love With You
     (**)  This might be because I’ve been up too long and desperately need sleep, but my first instinct is to question this song’s existence. It’s somewhat surreal to hear a dance-pop song that samples the guitar riff from “Jack and Diane.” I’ve dreamed crazier samples than that, and I’ve heard lazier musical mismatches, but for some crazyass, sleep-deprived reason, this sounds halfway inventive to me. I guess there really is no need to actually write a song when all you really have to do is market your product (the girl singer herself) by creating music that is familiar and accessible. And what better way to do that than to pillage our nation’s collective consciousness by snatching some Billboard Hot 100 classic? It’s not too hard to give an old song a beat and thereby update it, and whatever Swedish act produced this Jessica Simpson  knew what they were doing. This is Bubbilicious-sweet, and it even takes place partly at an amusement park. It’s like Neil Young said in the new Rolling Stone – a toothpaste ad without the actual toothpaste. And, this late at night, I’m not exactly one to discriminate. –AH
Jessica Simpson - I Think I'm in Love With You

Sting – Desert Rose
     (**½)  The Onion, with one editorial, has ensured that, any time I think of Sting, the phrase “I used to be kind of cool once” will pop into my mind. It’s true, you know – Sting was kind of cool at one time, before The Police broke up, before he joined Puffy onstage and, yes, before we knew he could fuck for hours on end. I appreciated the single “Brand New Day” for what it was, a fairly catchy adult-contemporary hit you’d welcome on the Super Wal-Mart muzak every once in awhile. But Sting thinks he’s back, that he’s relevant, and his second single proves his hubris, invoking Cher, Enrique Iglesias and the 1995 comeback incarnation of Paula Abdul all at once. Sting spends most of the video in the back seat of a car, filming the Nevada desert scenery through a digital camera while a female-sounding Indian guy emotes from within a club. Sting gets to Vegas soon enough, still filming the scenery, and joins the Indian guy onstage. (Sting is wearing all leather by this point, if that happens to interest you.) Watch for the part, toward the end, where Sting falls slack in the nightclub and apparently enters another reality. Is he, a) meditating, b) stinking drunk, or, c) falling asleep around 9:30 p.m. like the old fart he is? Okay, I guess I’m not being fair. Maybe he passes out because he’s been having tantric sex since 1986. –AH
NOTE: I’m starting a new feature here that supercedes the old “Z-Music Video of the Week” entries, which have become fewer and fewer because the local religious channel only airs Z at, like, 4 in the morning. (And 4 a.m. is definitely too late to be dealing with Christian music videos.) So, upon realizing there are a lot more gay videos at my disposal than Christian ones, I decided to go with this larger video-fetish umbrella. I think it was last week's review of R.E.M.'s "Shiny Happy People" that tipped me off. This way, even if I come across the perfect Z-Music specimen, it would most definitely also qualify for this weekly feature that highlights crappiness, a feature I call…

Gay Video of the Week

David Bowie and Mick Jagger – Dancing in the Streets (1985)
     (zero)  I may just be laying my cards on the table here, but if you want gay videos, I don’t believe you can go any gayer than this mid-‘80s monstrosity. Everything is terribly pastel – even the graffiti looks like it was done by an interior decorator – and Bowie and Jagger’s wardrobes both look like something a very unfashionable woman would have worn around that time. And watch these guys move; there’s no hint of the musical brilliance that’s come from either of them. They have a surprising lack of rhythm and, I guess, of good taste. The video is simply horrible and includes such sexuality-baring elements as, a) a near-Eskimo kiss between Jagger and Bowie, b) an “I offer you this ass” look of lust that Jagger flashes Bowie for a split second, c) Jagger attempting to walk like an Egyptian and do the splits, and d) a outro shot that actually freeze frames on close-ups of both their asses. Not once but twice. You’ll question more than the artists’ sexuality when you’re done with this abortion which, curiously enough, doesn’t belong to any album. I guess once the coke wore off and they got the feeling back in their asses, Jagger and Bowie both disowned it. See, I’m very confident that – even in these too-politically-correct times, I can get away with all the gay jokes I want because GLAD is far too busy attacking Marshall “I Can’t Wait Till I Catch All You Faggots In Public” Mathers. –AH

Classic Videos

Bee Gees – Alone (1997)
     (*)  Do you remember the aborted VHI comeback attempt from the Bee Gees a few summers ago? It basically consisted of a heavily advertised “Storytellers” special and this single, which is fairly catchy in the past-their-prime muzak sense that “Kokomo” and “You Can Call Me Al” are catchy. They’re the best their fading creators can do. (A little bit better during the Bee Gee summer was Paul McCartney’s attempted comeback single, “The World Tonight.”) And they usually have piss-poor videos to match. “Alone” has public-access production values, integrating tan-tinted shots of the present-day, hair-thinned Bee Gees singing into studio mics with stock footage of the group at its prime. You know, it can’t be easy knowing your life was all downhill after “How Deep Is Your Love.” –AH

The J. Geils Band – Freeze Frame (1981)
     (**)  My earliest memories of “Freeze Frame” were hearing it as the theme song to a locally produced Saturday morning game show called “D.B.’s Delight,” which, frankly, wasn’t very good. But I’ve always thought of it as a kitschy classic worthy of any party mix tape. It’s one of the great Reagan Suicide Attempt Period novelty singles, and, in retrospect, it has quite a novelty video to go with it. There wasn’t a whole lot in the way of budget or technology back then, so the director of this video compensated by placing all of the J. Geils Band in what looks like an enormous gym-class parachute turned inside-out. The video also integrates black-and-white stock footage, a primitive stop-motion animation display and a sequence in which everyone dons coveralls and wife beaters and plays around with paint. It looks like the set-up to a really bad ‘80s gay porn movie (Paintballs or Brod Du-me) , and just wait until you see the singer writhe on the blue screen that shows the stock footage. “Okay, I’m all done with you guys. Thanks for all your patience and for a great performance. Not so fast, Peter. We’re going to need to film you rolling around on this blue screen for about a half-hour. We have something extra-special-technology-crazy in mind for you.” –AH

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – Runnin’ Down a Dream (1989)
     (****)  See, I put myself through a string of bad videos so I could further appreciate “Runnin’ Down a Dream” as the payoff. This video caps off my classic reviews and new reviews with a fascinating but simplistic animated approach. (There’s nothing quite so entertaining as good animation – insert plug for the very cool movie Chicken Run here.) The cartoon, black-and-white Tom is slumbering away, minding his own business, when a little guy who’s a cross between Tweedledum and Baby Herman (there I go again with the Who Framed Roger Rabbit references) snatches him out of bed. Petty follows him up a ladder and into the moon’s mouth, and much sliding down of banisters and getting shot out of cannons ensues. I apologize; it’s way too late at night for me to describe a video that makes sense, much less a Tom Petty video. Next week I’m doing my reviews in the afternoon, I’ll tell you that much. Just realize “Runnin’ Down a Dream” is a damn cool video, definitely no candidate for Gay Video of the Week. That’s what we call hammerin’ a concept home, guy. –AH


Copyright 2000 Apartment Y Productions