Disturbed – Stupefy
     (***)  At first glance, this is just another white-angst growl-rock video with lots of strobe flashes, scowling and sepia-toned shots of the lead singer as a child (i.e. the time of his original scarring by the big, bad world). And, at second and third glance, this is still just another white-angst growl-rock video featuring all of the above. But there’s something about “Stupefy” that gets to me, whether it’s the shots of the kid in the stripped-down, dirty-as-hell room – the kid eventually hovers above the floor to assume a crucifixion pose that the grown-up singer then mimics – or the rapid-fire head banging of random haunted-house extras. And, surely, it doesn’t hurt that “Stupefy,” the song itself, is heavily laden with profanity and swirling guitars. Yes, the lead singer resembles former MTV veejay Matt Pinfield several months off his Paxil prescription, and I can see how some people would immediately claim to see right through this. But, no matter which glance this is, I haven’t yet seen through it. –Andrew Hicks

Green Day – Minority
     (**½)  Thanks to Blink 182 and upstart hacks like SR-71, Green Day can’t really be Green Day anymore. Think about it – the core audience for Dookie, the wave of which this band has been riding for six years, has grown up. We’re all out of college, or at least those of us who aren’t *ahem* on the six-year plan. So Green Day has been forced to become more melodic and more consistent with the adult album rock of “Redundant” and “Good Riddance” while still tossing a bone or two to TRL. From this orientation we get “Minority,” a half-assed social protest song that picks on, among other things, the Moral Majority. (Is there even a Moral Majority anymore?) But, as always, this Green Day song is catchy as hell and almost impossible to resist for anyone who can handle a tiny bit of punk and a whole lot of mainstream pop. The video is configured as a street parade, with deviant baton throwers preceding the band’s float while enormous, obviously computer-animated balloons of the band members trail behind. It’s not overly exciting, but I’m glad to have these guys back. –AH

Innosense – Say No More
     (*½)  This generic girl-group video comes disguised as a generic boy-group video, with a set-up that has a high school holding auditions for the next *N Sync. So we get plenty of 2gether wannabes strutting their stuff for the selection panel while the girls of Innosense lip synch from, I guess, a few of the next rooms over. The one who looks like Lucy Lawless is in a room full of mannequins, while the other ones dance in front of a group of old-fashioned, reversible green chalkboards. (Aside from Xena: Warrior Princess, this group also features a Dixie Chick, a Christina Aguilera, an Idalis and a blonde who doesn’t really look like anyone but has a too-tight perm.) Finally, they tie up the boy band winners and audition for the panel themselves. “Perfect!” the head record exec booms. “A boy group comprised entirely of transsexuals. This’ll go over huge in San Francisco.” And the rest, as they say, is history. –AH

Debelah Morgan – Dance With Me
Debelah Morgan - Dance With Me
     (*½)  This is the first I’ve actually been clued in on which artist sings this and what the official title of the song is. I mainly just identify it as a common offering on the local teenybopper channel during late-night radio-dial surfing. “Dance With Me” samples a highly recognizable pop-tango number and, ironically enough, I’ve never known the name of that song, either. (You know the one, though – it was the commercial jingle for Velveeta Light years back, and Jim Carrey hummed it under his breath in the trailer for Me, Myself and Irene.) In Debelah Morgan’s hands – or, more accurately, in the hands of her production and A+R staff – it becomes bland dance pop, with a standard ballroom video. Albeit one with no agreed-upon choreography or dress code; some of these people are impossibly casual looking, while others are dressed to look formal or sexy. That includes Morgan herself, who resembles an odd physical cloning of the young Tina Turner with current diva-lite Mya. But her voice, moves and screen presence evoke neither the former nor the latter, just the gag reflex. –AH
Debelah Morgan - Dance With Me
Note from Mike M.: The sampled pop-tango song is "Hernando's Hideaway" -- which is what they named the dance club in this video.
Debelah Morgan - Dance With Me

Mystikal – Shake It Fast
     (**½)  With one well-chosen sample and some energetic vocal work, “Shake It Fast” (known to the rest of the civilized world as “Shake Ya Ass”) represents the best music I’ve ever heard yet from the fast-fading No Limit camp. Mystikal, whose manic delivery often approximates an odd hybrid of Onyx and James Brown, imitates the Godfather even more during the chorus (“Hah! Watch y’self!”), while a funky rhythm-guitar line repeats ad nauseum. And, as you’d expect, the video – which frequently switches from widescreen to full-frame visuals – has the traditional elements of a rap party video, including lots of very hot girls. Which never hurts. The bulk of it takes place inside a mansion, at a well-lit party where some guests have masks and head adornments. Mystikal also seems to be getting a near-constant vertical lap dance from alternating dancers and models, while some Hype Williams-looking color manipulation does its trick. “Shake It Fast” is surprisingly fun to watch, although I definitely count it a guilty pleasure. –AH

No Doubt – Bathwater
     (***)  I knew it would happen. I knew No Doubt would grow on me all over again and I’d be that suckered 18-year-old kid who thrust Tragic Kingdom into personal heavy rotation for eight to ten weeks before returning it to its rightful place in the stacks. All it took this time was a spare MP3 of “Ex-Girlfriend” on my brother’s computer, combined with “Bathwater,” the return to the old No Doubt. Gwen Stefani has no pink hair this time, no aspirations to Blondie-like rapping. She’s platinum blond again and showing off that midriff like her last name was Spears, and the song has a horn section, interludes right out of a 1930s RCA home-radio unit and coy, sensual lyrics. I like it, and I like the video, a simplistic and welcome comedown from the elaborate first two clips from Return of Saturn. Stefani, wearing a glittery shirt that reads “Can’t Touch This” (wanna bet?), and the band goof around on a boxed-in silver soundstage right out of a Q-Tip video. It’s campy, it has writhing girl back-up dancers and at times even resembles a Gap commercial. But somehow I can forgive it because this – finally, three singles into their new gig – is the No Doubt I used to like. –AH

Spice Girls – Holler
Spice Girls - Holler
     (*½)  The Spice Girls want to make you holler, and chances are, they already have. Probably sometime back in the summer of 1997, when you couldn’t get away from their shit. But compared to everything else that walked into the door they opened – from *N Sync to Aaron Carter to Lil’ Bow Wow – they now resemble that hot receptionist that works in your dad’s office. They’re not bad to look at, but they’re in an entire other age bracket from the TRL target audience. And as I already observe a moment of silence for the Spice Girls’ album, which is bound to tank, I can only hope this represents the teen wave finally coming full circle and wearing off like the mouth-numbing local anesthetic administered prior to serious dental work. (It probably doesn’t, but a man can dream, can’t he?) As for the video for “Holler,” it’s a lot of computer-generated nonsense. There’s not a single shot that isn’t visually enhanced in some way, yet none of it is remotely exciting. It’s just lots of opaque visuals, flame imagery and the four remaining Spice Girls imprisoned in a lucite triangular dome while a guest rapper intones “Holla-holla-holla-holla come on!” I didn’t even realize this was the Spice Girls the first time it popped up on The Box – it has such a generic pseudo-Destiny’s Child sound, I wouldn’t even rate it as better than the Innosense or Debelah Morgan singles. –AH
Spice Girls - Holler

3 Doors Down – Loser
     (**½)  The guys in the band would no doubt line up and kick my ass one by one if they knew I said this, but “Loser” sounds like the unholy alliance of Hootie and the Blowfish and Alice in Chains. The lead vocals have that earthy, adult-contemporary frat-rock sound, while the backing vocals in the chorus are right out of Jar of Flies. The finished product, as you might imagine, is just this side of mediocre, although not unpleasant. And the high-school-revenge-fantasy video (seems like I have a new one to review almost every week) from Liz Friedlander is actually pretty enjoyable. The band members play from empty classrooms, stairwells and the teacher’s lounge while an unloved chemistry teacher hits it off with a student and eventually hurls his Tupperware-contained lunch at a brick wall outside. That’s showing ‘em, teach! Get in touch with your inner rage, deal with it and get back to grading papers before your fifth hour civics class files in. --AH

Robbie Williams – Rock DJ
     (**)  Why does Customs keep letting this guy in the country? Robbie’s is a music career made strictly for Great Britain. (Y’all can have him – we have enough bullshit stateside.) But apparently, England doesn’t want anything to do with “Rock DJ,” and it’s not hard to see why once this video reaches the three-minute mark. Sure, it’s musically offensive from the beginning (“Can I kick it, stick it?” he asks, waxing Sir Mix-a-Lot philosophical, as female voices eagerly respond, “Yes, you can!”), but that’s nothing compared to what’s coming. Robbie ascends from the middle of a roller rink soundstage, while scores of women roll right past him. So he starts taking off clothes to attract them – off comes the wife beater, the jeans and the Dirty Mind-style bikini briefs. Still no love from the honies, perhaps because all his naughty bits are MTV-blurred. But Robbie presses on, peeling off his torso skin and twirling it over his head, tossing it at one of the rental girls. Now they’re excited – it reminds them of Human Anatomy and Physiology, their favorite high school class. (Mine, too.) As the video wears on, Robbie peels off all his skin, throws away hunks of internal organs and is left a horny skeleton. It’s an outrageous concept, I’ll give it that, and paired with a stronger song and artist, it could make for video history. As it is, though, it’s tongue-in-cheek teen-pop garbage, so I can’t rate it higher than two stars. Particularly once I noticed the post-video declaration: “No Robbies were harmed in the making of this video.” Robbies will definitely be harmed if they come to my neighborhood. –AH

Leon's Ghetto-Ass Video of the Week

504 Boyz – Whodi
     (zero)  This is another catchphrase “The Tank” (nickname for No Limit Records, based on its logo of an iced-out tank) has been shoving down our throats here in the south (“Where you at, Whodi?” “Over here, Whodi!” “Uggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”) But any video that features New Orleans’ favorite jughead, Master P, sporting a huge afro wig and a t-shirt emblazoned with a big “504” across the front, while sitting in the back of a limousine entitles this clip to be “Ghetto Video of the Year.” And Silkk the Shocker and Mystikal (I just love his song, “Shake Ya Ass”) pop up too. Naturally, this video features the same Rolls Royces, dancing wenches in front of the projects and other things that make this exclusively BET material. It’s hard to believe I only live 90 minutes from this place, but the radio stations up here have the good sense not to clog the airwaves with this. Leon Bracey

Gay Video of the Week

The Honeydrippers – Sea of Love (1984)
     (*)  An old roommate had a theory that everyone was gay in the ‘80s, and the more we distance ourselves from that pitiable, Reagan-dominated decade, the more I agree with him. Yet another case in point, The Honeydrippers – this is what Robert Plant occupied himself with during the middle part of the ‘80s. Yes, Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. Which would you rather listen to, Houses of the Holy or the wishfully titled Honeydrippers – Volume One, an album of lounge covers of tunes like “Sea of Love.” (Worse, it wasn’t even a full album, just like six songs and a front and back cover.) The video is both sparse and repulsive, with Plant lounging at a beach cabana while a bikini-clad male xylophone player looks on and lovers frolic. I think it’s safe to say we never wanted to see Robert Plant in jams to begin with, and that’s just the beginning of my problems with this clip. –AH

Classic Videos

Eric Clapton – Tears in Heaven (1992)
     (*½)  So Clapton’s kid (a.k.a. Son of God) fell out a window, and he wrote a song about it. A tragic happening, yeah, and I’m sure the original title of “Tears in Heaven” was “Guess I Should Have Put a Screen In,” but I’m a sick bastard, so the circumstances surrounding this song don’t require me to like it. I’ve always thought this a bland, elevator-music tug on the heart strings, especially suited for the soundtrack of manipulative tripe like the movie Rush. And, yeah, plenty of clips from that movie appear in this video, which I suppose beats newsreel footage of Clapton’s young son descending several stories to his death. Very few people realize it, but “Change the World” was written a couple years later as an emotion reaction to Clapton’s young daughter being sucked up a vacuum cleaner, while “My Father’s Eyes” was written as a reaction to Clapton’s accidental squirting of hydrochloric acid into his dad’s immediately singed eye sockets… Before you click on the link to my e-mail address and fire up a missive decrying my insensitivity, I must say in personal defense that I wouldn’t have to crack these jokes if this song was in any way indicative of Clapton’s talent or if the video showed him doing anything but sitting on a stool, placidly chewing his cud like the old piece of livestock he had become by this sad presidential election year. So it’s not my fault, it’s Clapton’s. I guess he should have put a screen in. –AH

The Motels – Suddenly Last Summer (1984)
     (**½)  Ah, whatever happened to the sweet Motels? A couple soundalike hits in the mid-Reagan years, and they were never heard from again. And you think I’m being facetious as always, but I happen to really enjoy this song, which is a play on the old Elizabeth Taylor movie of the same name. I’ve never actually seen the movie, so I can’t say for sure whether the wistful, dated images of the Motels singer wandering the beach with her dream lover are copped straight from Liz Taylor’s ample bosom. I can, however, safely state that this video has seen better days and been the star of many plays. From the lead singer’s nasty-ass, sue-your-stylist-honey hair to the bland color tones to the freak-out looks of the people standing around her bed when she wakes up and realizes it’s all just been a cruel, cruel dream, the “Suddenly Last Summer” video is much ado about nothing. Except for the part where the singer’s kid falls from an open window and her young daughter is sucked into a vacuum cleaner. I like that part. –AH


Copyright 2000 Andrew Hicks