Big Pun – 100%
     (***)  The posthumous wave of videos continues, and boy is that decomposing 800-pound body starting to stink on camera. I can smell the dude through my TV set… Okay, I know, way to demonstrate my respect for the dead. I’ll start over. This is one video that knows exactly how to compensate for the absence of its front man – not like Puffy’s B.I.G. projects, by eternally mourning Big Pun and calling out to heaven for him every five seconds (hint: he’s not there), but by showing dozens and dozens of dancing women in bikinis and letting Pun’s posse lip synch the chorus. “100%” is a fun and bright outdoor party video in the Latin tradition, with light-hearted Caribbean music, a parade and gorgeous outdoor locales. The only hint of an epitaph comes when we watch a chick gyrate on the beach, with “Big” embroidered over one bikini-covered breast and “Pun” over the other. The political community can only hope to mourn the impending death of Sen. Jesse Helms with half as much class. –Andrew Hicks

Dido – Here With Me
     (*½)  Last summer, M2 briefly rotated the original video for “Here With Me,” a trippy, sepia-toned affair that fully absorbed me on more than one occasion after a long night of weed smoking. But it never broke out of M2 obscurity, and Dido remained in music limbo until Eminem sampled her vocals on “Stan” this summer. Now here she is on VH1 with a new video for “Here With Me” that has her lounging in a bedroom furnished entirely with iKea products. There, lying on the bed in a blue tank top and drowning in green eye shadow, Dido looks just like any other adult-contemporary glam doll, destined for one-hit wonderhood. It’s a damn shame, too, because her brand of ambient pop is bubbling with personality, and this video conceals all of it. Why replace that wonderful first video with shots of her hanging out in a bedroom and walking down the middle of the street? Stupid! Stupid!! –AH

Good Charlotte – Little Things
     (**)  “This song is dedicated to every kid who ever got picked last in gym class, to every kid who never had a date to no dance, to everyone who’s ever been called a freak, this is for you,” the lead singer intones at the beginning of this punk-ultralite video, as a picked-on Asian kid nods somberly. Well, as someone who has dabbled in all three of these points of loserdom, I offer a big thanks-but-no-thanks. “Little Things” suffers from Amy Heckerling Loser syndrome – it wants to uplift the underdog but is so far out of touch it ends up being unconvincing on all counts. Among the vignettes in this high school video? A paper wad fight in homeroom, the cheerleaders dancing with the freaks at an impromptu concert assembly, a bunch of punks rearranging the school sign to bear the band’s name, and the principal looking damn frustrated. Nothing too clever or endearing here, but the song is just catchy enough to save it from dipping below the two-star category. –AH

Jagged Edge f/Run DMC – Let’s Get Married (remix)
     (*½)  And now we arrive at our Jermaine Dupri Remix Video of the Week. I don’t know what’s up, but Dupri has been the hardest working mofo in hip-hop this summer. I guess I should just thank God that Puffy seems to be over and done with, and that it would most certainly take another gangland slaying to light a fire under his ever-samplin’ ass, but I have my Dupri-saturation point nonetheless. I also have my R+B marriage saturation point, and between this video and the new one from Next (reviewed last week), I’m facing down a disturbing trend. (You start to wonder if the old tricks to get in a girl’s pants just don’t work anymore, if now guys have to toss out the desire to settle down just to get some play.) Dupri has turned a slow-jam into a dance track, which takes place entirely on a red-lit soundstage with participants in blue-tinted, silky wedding wear. And, yes, you read correctly above – Run DMC appears in this video, spouting a half-hearted, out-of-place verse whose rhythms are stolen straight from “It’s Tricky.” I guess this version should be called “It’s a Paycheck (Ain’t Had One of Those In Awhile).” –AH

Lucy Pearl – Don’t Mess With My Man
     (***)  I enjoyed “Dance Tonight,” and this follow-up makes it official – I’m going to have to go out and buy the Lucy Pearl album. If you’ve forgotten or simply never heard of this R+B amalgam, it includes Rafael Saadiq of Tony! Toni! Tone, Ali Shaheed Muhammed froom A Tribe Called Quest and Dawn Robinson from En Vogue. And each brings along at least one stylistic element of his or her respective group, for a nicely blended pot-luck funk. “Don’t Mess With My Man” is a standard blue-tint dance video, although a lot more hard-edged than the usual entries in the genre, thanks to camera tricks and editing that slows and speeds individual motion. Half the video has Lucy Pearl performing on a soundstage, while the other half has Robinson (sometimes flanked by several clones of herself) sauntering down a street in the grips of rush-hour traffic, looking confident and sexy all at once. If you like melodic R+B with a hip-hop edge, you and I both are going to have to buy this. –AH

Matchbox Twenty – If You’re Gone
     (**)  Something fucked up happened after I graduated college – the output of Rob Thomas started growing on me. I liked “Smooth,” I even liked “Bent,” and some of that shit from their first album started sounding better when I’d hear it on the Great Clips muzak. And this is an okay song, even if it’s not exactly to my taste. (Maybe when I’m 23…) This video starts off as the Rob Thomas equivalent of “More Than Words,” with Thomas singing somberly from an abandoned, black-and-white soundstage. (All that’s missing? A tongue kiss from Nuno Bettencourt.) Then it turns into any number of on-the-roof-looking-down videos – think Boyz II Men and Jordan Knight. And, as the subdued rhythm guitar and drums kick in, it’s back to the soundstage, now populated with an entire band. Then back to the roof, also populated by the other Matchbox nineteen. Nothing remarkable, but it’s good enough for VH1, and I assume the director knew going in that this didn’t stand much chance of garnering MTV airplay. –AH

Rage Against the Machine – Testify
     (***)  I don’t know about y’all, but I can’t imagine a lamer presidential election than the one we’re being subjected to now. I thought the Clinton-Dole pairing was dismal, but Gore vs. Little Bush is like watching a boxing match between Estelle Getty and Bea Arthur – ridiculous, uninteresting and completely softball. And, at the perfect time, along come Rage and Michael Moore with their second team-up (after the thoroughly entertaining satire of “Sleep Now in the Fire”) to tell the cheesy sci-fi story of the aliens who send a mutant to earth who “appears as two but speaks as one.” Namely, Gore and Bush, who split off from one disturbing-looking morph to spout nearly identical soundbite quotes. Moore juxtaposes evening news footage with shots of media whores and nare-do-wells (Oliver North, Monica Lewinsky, Clarence Thomas) raising their right hands to testify. Rage appears in sepia-tinted studio lip-synch clips while older stock footage is edited in. The result is a low-budget but satisfying music video that manages to sum up in less than four minutes the sham that is the 2000 election and the empty political and consumer culture we’re all immersed in. –AH

Sisqo – Incomplete
     (**)  It’s early fall now, time to shelve the dance antics of the “Thong Song” and turn to a more traditional, Dru Hill-sounding ballad. And Sisqo is ready for the challenge, with the bland and indistinct “Incomplete,” which begins with a full minute or more of studio lip synch footage. (Show of hands – who’s ready to see Sisqo act sensitive? Didn’t think so.) Then, a seemingly endless series of shots of the singer wandering the empty but lush grounds of his estate, whining to no one in particular about how his girl is gone. And, surprise, he doesn’t find her on the tennis court or in the greenhouse. But is that a car pulling up on the horizon? I think it is, and I think we all know who’s in it. Nothing too interesting here, although “Incomplete” is worth the two stars for the understated ending, in which the chick simply dissolves into thin air and so does her picture on the wall behind Sisqo. –AH

The Wallflowers – Sleepwalker
     (**½)  It’s the strangest thing. Everyone had forgotten about The Wallflowers and moved on with their lives, then a couple weeks ago, I made a bet with a friend. “You think we’ll ever hear from The Wallflowers again?” “Nah, they’re done for.” “I bet you five bucks they’ll be back within six months.” I won’t reveal which side I took in the bet, because I lost it, but here they are, Jakob Dylan and Co., settling into a flashy, VH1 incarnation. Director Mark Romanek brings us some kind of odd political statement, with lots of waving American flags and photographers’ flash bulbs along with some ‘60s-dressed models and non-sequitur imagery. (“Now, Jakob, we’re going to get a shot of you wearing these headphones, which happen to be plugged into the dead fish at the end of the table.” “What’s the point of that?” “It’s deep, man. You want to be deep, don’t you? Just like your dad.”) It’s pleasant enough, but not overly memorable… that phrase also happens to sum up my opinion of The Wallflowers in general. –AH

Gay Video of the Week

Peter Cetera and Amy Grant -- The Next Time I Fall (1986)
     (*)  One of the more obnoxious pairings on my upcoming Cocksmoking Duets compilation (not available in stores!) is Peter Cetera, the ex-lead singer of Chicago who took the nuts-trapped-in-a-vise-grip sound of the Bee Gees to bold new lows, and Amy Grant, the husky-voiced Christian singer who used her powers for evil far too often. Case in point, “The Next Time I Fall (I’ll Have On My Medic Alert Bracelet),” a #1 hit whose video takes place entirely in a sporadically lit ballet classroom. Cetera and Grant lip synch from separate corners of the room – probably to throw off the well-founded suspicion of Grant’s husband that she was boffing every duet partner, producer, roadie and tour bus driver that came her way – while dancers rehearse and pirouette behind them. An ex-roommate of mine would often claim that everyone was gay in the ‘80s, not just Cetera, but I have a hard time imagining him ever finding his way up the path to straighter times in the 1990s and beyond. Future duet partners would include Cher and the chick from “Wings.” –AH

Leon's Ghetto Ass Video of the Week

Jill Scott – Gettin’ in the Way
     (*)  Before I start my tirade, I must admit that I love, love, love this song. Good neo-soul to listen to – I’m getting that album when refund check time comes – but the video sucks. You have Jill Scott, who wrote the infamous hook that Erykah Badu sang on The Roots’ hit “You Got Me.” She’s on the phone, telling off some woman that is messing with her man… how many times have I seen this cliche dug into the ground? After the woman hangs up on her, Jill marches down the street, past the lil’ chillun’s playing double dutch and old men playing dominoes, and goes to the ho’s house to tell her off. When Homegirl opens the door, Jill Scott starts to take off her hoop earrings (oh, sooky, sooky now...) and the women get into each other’s faces. This earns the applause of the local populace, the members of which congregate on the woman’s front yard. Finally, Jill has had enough of this shit and rips the woman’s wig off. The other woman, humiliated, storms back into the house to get her .45 and bust a cap in her ass. Wait! The video is ending... What the hell? Like I said, I love the song, which is a respite from the crappy cookie-cutter R&B that is clogging our airwaves, but Jill, baby, get a new director. –Leon Bracey

Classic Video

George Harrison – All Those Years Ago (1981)
     (***)  The only videos from the early days of MTV that really seem to have held up are the ones made up of clips, stuff like Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure” and this wistful effort from ex-Beatle George Harrison. For a group of people who went on to solo careers, determined to make the world forget they were ever in the biggest band of all time, Harrison returns to the glorious ‘60s in full style here. Black-and-white photo stills, color concert clips and goofy moments from Help!, A Hard Day’s Night and Magical Mystery Tour are blended together for a fresh video that is less concerned with setting up a timeline or coherent theme than presenting moments of emotion and happiness that span the band’s entire tenure. Its choice of a slow-motion clip of the white-suited Beatles ascending the staircase (from “Your Mother Should Know”) is perfect. –AH


Copyright 2000 Andrew Hicks