REVIEWS -- AUGUST 11, 2000

                        Christina Aguilera – Come On Over (All I Want Is You)
Christina Aguilera - Come On Over
     (**)  Things have just heated up in the Britney/Christina war – after wasting months of our spank time with “I Turn to You,” Christina revealed herself as quite the harlot-nympho in her Rolling Stone cover article and, while Britney’s off indulging her bullshit Hollywood ambitions with “Lucky,” Christina is back with a dance track that actually uses the word “sexuality” and expresses the teen tart’s desire “to get skin-tight.” Okay, so the video is just a bunch of ambiguous soundstage nonsense that sees our midriff bearer in green (!) leather pants. So she’s surrounded by more guys than Jasmine St. Clair at The World’s Biggest Gang Bang 2. So her doorag is perfectly color-coordinated with her baby tee in the intro. So the song outright sucks and the whole affair resembles a GAP commercial gone awry. These things don’t concern my still-adolescent id – for once, the MTV designation of “Spankin’ New” actually applies, and that’s worth two guilty stars. And me all out of hand lotion. –Andrew Hicks
Christina Aguilera - Come On Over

Busta Rhymes – Fire
     (***½)  The first two minutes of “Fire” constitutes the coolest shit I’ve seen on MTV all year. Storm clouds loom on the horizon, the chickens and hens are spooked, and Busta – in overalls, with a blade of grass sticking out of his mouth – assesses the situation and sits down in an outdoor easy chair. Just as the tornado materializes. He’s got his headphones on, and he lip synchs wildly from the chair as the monster bears down on him, sucking up farm implements, livestock and, eventually, Busta’s followers. It sucks the chair out from under him, and he hangs by one arm from a waterpipe as long as he can before being sucked in. (And, even then, he raps from within the twister.) Then director Hype Williams totally ruins the effect by cutting to a standard wall-of-fire blue screen, where Busta and some hotties frolic. Hype gets back to the original scene before too long, and he makes up for the transgression by having random Busta-followers’ heads explode as the black sky rages on behind them. But that first cut to the flame imagery kills what is otherwise a flawless video. Even as is, though, it’s one of the year’s indisputable highlights. –AH

Common – The Light
     (***)  Common, creeping up on The Roots’ Okay Player label, has the hip-hop album of the year to date, full of laid-back, inventive rhymes and tight, jazzy beats. And “The Light,” which lifts its chorus vocals intact from Bobby Caldwell’s “Open Your Eyes,” is no exception. The video (directed by Nzhingha Stewart) takes place at Common’s pad, where he’s talking up his girlfriend – as the video roams the place in extreme close-up, it captures mostly faces and body parts, plant leaves and the lava oozing up from within the confines of its lamp. There’s a little too much rose stem/dual candle flame imagery for my tastes, but this subdued, classy clip is just what the song needs and a workable counterpart to the all-too-flashy world of rap videos. True dat. –AH

De La Soul – Oooh
     (***)  Am I the only person who thinks right now is the perfect time for De La Soul to make a comeback? They’ve got the newer hip-hop pioneers like The Roots and Common to keep them company, and they’re in the position to show the thug fakers (with numbers too myriad to count) what’s up. “Oooh” is a five-minute reworking of The Wizard of Oz, which begins with our Dorothy figure being publicly denied entrance to a popular club and fainting from the embarrassment. She wakes up in another universe, pastel-colored, with a dog licking her face and three very-familiar-but-altered-to-keep-from-copyright-suit characters there to lead her to the Brick City. Redman, glowing green and silver, looms ominous in his cameo as the Great Red, who lets the four freaks into the party – which is in black-and-white and surprisingly mundane for all the trouble the freaks went to. Still, “Oooh” is a stylish and fun video with a sophisticated (but, like the characters, familiar) backing track. A strong return for some of rap’s original visionaries, and I even requested it on TRL’s website just now. (Andrew, 22, from Missouri: “These guys were around before most of you little bastards were born!”) –AH

Eminem – The Way I Am
     (**½)  For his fifth MTV outing, Eminem has finally gotten around to releasing a serious video, and I’m betting it won’t exactly set TRL on fire. The big problem with “The Way I Am” is evident from the beginning, as Em is sweated by a record exec (the same bastard who told Sleazy-E to sign “your life… I mean, your name on the contract” in the “Dre Day” video) who tells him there’s no chance his album will sell. I don’t think Eminem has any reason to bitch about album sales and airplay at this point, but the rest of the subject matter is validated easily enough. I like the scenes of him trying to assume a degree of privacy and being autograph-hounded on his way out of the toilet. I like the extended visuals of him first standing in a high-rise window and later free-falling. And director Paul Hunter keeps things appropriately dark (if a little too heavy-handed and laughable), although the stock images of Eminem chilling with his family (um, not likely), going ballistic at the record company board meeting and being verbally attacked during a radio interview don’t show much inventiveness. Still, this clip at least shows the uninitiated that there’s more to Eminem’s flow than nasal name-dropping. –AH
     (*½)  When The Marshall Mathers LP was released, real fans knew there had been a severe dip in quality from the Great White Hope’s last effort. The majority of the album was nothing more than a repackaging of the last with Dr. Dre’s 2001 leftovers. The album had a few standout songs though that got airplay on radio stations – “Stan” was arguably the best and most well received track. Why Eminem chose “The Way I Am” for his latest single is beyond me; either he’s extremely stupid, or his label knows a thing or two more about promotion than I do. Mix equal parts Seal’s “Kissed By a Rose” and Eminem’s singles that had such rotten responses (“Guilty Conscience,” “Role Model”) and you’ll have “The Way I Am.” The video has only two instances of originality. The first is the “Steve Berman” interlude playing in the background in the beginning of the video, which perfectly sets the tone for what’s coming, what’s setting Marshall off. And then at the end of the video, as fans in the bathroom pester Eminem and we see Mathers with a depressed look on his face. We know that in real life Em wouldn’t do as his lyrics suggest, but we understand his frustration. The rest of the video however, is just meaningless, pretentious garbage. Eminem jumps off of a building! Eminem destroys his platinum plaque that he received for his Grammy winning album!  Eminem has an adorable kid! Real hip hop heads, let’s hope the bleached blond MC comes to his senses and makes his next single “Stan.” Donlee Brussel, guest reviewer

Eve 6 – Promise
     (*½)  Ah, they’re back, my favorite recent example of teen nepotism in the music industry (yes, I’m speaking directly to you, Tony Fagenson). And I honestly can’t tell if the lead singer’s RATT t-shirt is worn with or without irony. You get the feeling Eve 6 would be satisfied with just one-third the longevity of that venerable hair-metal group and a guaranteed slot on the Rock Stock Tour 2010 schedule. But I’m not anticipating much shelf life for “Promise,” a Green Day-lite pop track so hard-up for relevancy it shows teen after teen quitting their bullshit jobs. So we get the pizza-oven guardian, the driving-range ball retriever and the garden-variety counter employee all telling their respective bosses to shove it as they congregate at the outdoor Eve 6 concert. Because, hey, Eve 6 understands. These guys know all about sucky day jobs… or, they’re about to, anyway. –AH

Foo Fighters – Next Year
     (**)  This third clip from There Is Nothing To Lose has the unfortunate distinction of being released the same week as Space Cowboys, and while you’re not likely to mistake Dave Grohl for Clint Eastwood or Tommy Lee Jones while in a state of sobriety, the NASA launch visuals are close enough. Director Paul Harder mixes old rocket footage with meandering visuals from inside the makeshift vessel, as we follow the Foos from launch to weightlessness to the moon itself. Which of course gets tagged with the Foo Fighters logo. (Nice try, guys. We all know Nirvana got there about four years before you.) “Next Year” has its charm, I suppose, and it goes well with the mellow alt-rock song, but by the time it gets to the ticker-tape parade and Nixon cameo (yeah, you read that right), it’s all Forrest Gump territory. –AH

L.L. Cool J – Imagine That
     (*)  Although I didn’t take it seriously for a second, I rather enjoyed the video for L.L.’s “Doin’ It.” It was all washed-out colors and campy innuendo, and the girl was pretty damn hot. Now, four years down the road, L.L. is falling back on the same gimmick of PG-rated sex lyrics and vocal sparring with an anonymous female, uh, partner. And what makes it pathetic self-parody this time? L.L.’s invitation to sexual role play, as he visualizes himself coming to his girl’s workplace, dispatching the Daddy Warbucks-looking boss and making photocopies of her ass “with my chin in-between.” Then it’s the old teacher/naughty student fantasy (“You chewed gum in class, and the only way to fix it is give me some <bleep>”), where – I’ll give him credit here – he manages to sexualize both of Homer’s best known works. But, aside from the lack of originality or true perversion (Dirty photocopies? Come on!), the climax verse is a mere nightclub fantasy. “Imagine That” is pure auto-pilot pop-rap, and even the directorial work from Hype Williams – who made “Doin’ It” so much fun – can’t save it. “Okay, now we’ll cut to a shot of full-grown schoolgirls sucking on lollipops.” Uh-huh. –AH

Madonna – Music
Madonna - Music
     (**½)  So she’s back, from outer space, and like Kevin Costner, no single embarrassment (The Next Best Thing and its bad-beyond-words cover of “American Pie”) is enough to stop Madonna’s career. And no single birthday (particularly not #41) is enough to make her grow up, as evidenced by this ultra-campy ‘70s-esque clip that sees Madonna cruising around L.A. in a gold limo driven by a clueless British hipster while wearing a cowboy hat and white Puffy gear. (The license plate, no lie, reads “Muff Daddy.”) There are interludes in a casino, nightclub and strip joint, a self-indulgent animated sequence (no less indulgent than demanding your own music be turned up in the limo, though) and cheesy transitional editing, subtitles and superimposed words on the screen. And I never thought I’d hear Madonna stick the word “bourgeoisie” in one of her choruses. That said, I can’t decide whether this is a visual abortion in the extreme or just another fad image makeover for the Madonna canon. Either way, it’s already starting to grow on me – God help me, I can’t resist a whistling synthesizer – so for now, it’s getting the on-the-fence 2½-star rating. –AH
Madonna - Music
     (***)  I suffered an hour of TRL just to see “Music,” and this after a phone interview with Carson that had Madonna using phrases like “ghetto fabulous” and “I’m the big bad pimp mamma,” or some bullshit. I was just hoping the video wouldn’t be half that pretentious. Madonna is playing a pimp in this video, and she has all the bling-bling – fur coat, gold jewelry, and wildly colored nails and all. She’s in the back of the limousine, kickin’ it with her friends (Debbi Mazar to her left and backup singer Nicki Harris to her right) for a wild night on the town. The limo driver is Ali G, some goofy-ass comic who is wildly popular in Britain and crazy as hell in this video, even attempting to freestyle “Like A Virgin” (much to Madonna's chagrin). We follow them all to a female strip club, where Madonna gets a wild lap dance from a hoochie mama, and all of the strippers pile up in the limo with Madonna/Harris/Mazar. We also see an animated sequence with Madonna kicking ass all over the place and even flying past an animated montage of all of her past songs. This isn't her best video, but it certainly isn't her worst (“Nothing Really Matters,” anyone?), and it amounts to a good time. Leon Bracey, resident Madonna expert
Madonna - Music

Gay Video of the Week

Joe Public – Live and Learn (1992)
     (*½)  One-and-only hit single from the hip-hop band’s self-titled debut album delivers a “streetwise” cautionary tale full of sketchy wisdom (“everybody that lives surely dies”). All four group members sport sunglasses and variations on the same outfit as they lip synch on an outdoor alley set underneath a rain machine that can’t seem to cover more than three square feet at a time. (Want a good laugh? Watch the “bass player” try to pretend to play his instrument during this clearly synthesized song. He wouldn’t know a chord if it wrapped itself around his neck.) Second-unit footage does little to improve things – we see a kid find a paper bag with a gun in it, contemplate the weapon and then fling it far from him, shaking his head in disgust. And don’t get me started on the shadowy gypsy figure who occasionally shows up to massage her crystal ball like it’s an aching bunion. Queer in the extreme, sir. –AH

Classic Videos
Peter Gabriel – Steam (1993)
     (***½)  In this VH1-staple from Us, Gabriel uses the latest (as of 1993) in computer-generated imagery to depict sexual stereotypes through the ages. He arrives in a limo, in purple pimp-wear, as he and his Grace Jones-looking girlfriend step onto the red carpet, push away admirers and cause the Manhattan skyline to pulse and sway. They immediately step into an animated Garden of Eden sequence and disintegrate into masses of fire and water. From there, conventional imagery – Gabriel as a stripper, his girlfriend as a nun and pin-up girl – is rendered in unconventional and expressive ways, culminating in the sliding steam-room sequence and a visual journey from womb to senility. The technology in the video has been supplanted since, but the sentiment remains the same, and the video continues to entertain. –AH

Michael Jackson – In the Closet (1992)
     (***)  For the third clip from Dangerous, director and fashion photographer Herb Ritts took on the unenviable task of showing us the sex-obsessed, ladies-man side of Michael Jackson. As you’d expect, it’s a journey mired in disgust, disbelief and unintentional laughter, but if you hang in there, you’ll also notice some gorgeous art direction and downright-hot footage of supermodel Naomi Campbell. She takes up all the sex-appeal slack, appearing in a simple white-cotton, two-piece number and writhing around Jackson and a series of inanimate objects like a house afire. It has to be seen to be believed. Jackson, for his part, tones himself down – he appears in a wife-beater and black jeans, busting his usual moves on the brown-and-white desert locale and trying to stay as far out of Naomi’s way as possible. This video may not have the smoldering intensity of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” but if you can stomach it, “In the Closet,” like driving by a car crash, is a fun six-minute study in circus-freak gawking. –AH


Copyright 2000 Apartment Y Productions