Backstreet Boys – Shape of My Heart
Backstreet Boys - Shape Of My Heart
     (*)  When I first saw the title of this song, I thought, Aw shit, they went and covered that Sting ballad from Ten Summoner’s Tales. And that British tune-whore probably suggested it to them when they sang together on “VH1 Male Divas Suck Back,” or whatever it was called. But, no, this is just another mid-tempo pop tune with a little acoustic rhythm guitar tossed in to fill the At Least One Real Instrument quota. The video is blue-tinted nonsense, with the Boys rehearsing in an old playhouse and one saucy female seemingly coming between all of them. I mean, I’m sorry, but if I’m a Backstreet Boy, I’m not going to fight with the other Backstreet Boys over some rented model. I could have any 14-year-old girl I wanted. These guys are getting damn scruffy, too, which must be their lame attempt to resemble credible “grunge” musicians. It actually makes them all look like the guy from Color Me Badd who looked like Kenny G. –Andrew Hicks
Backstreet Boys - Shape Of My Heart

Black Eyed Peas f/Esthera – Weekends
     (***)  Say what you will about 60-year-old white men and hip-hop, but it was Warren Beatty who introduced me to the Black Eyed Peas, by way of the Bulworth soundtrack. It contained the infectious party track “Joints and Jams,” which was an instant classic even if its synth line did sound a little too close to Tribe’s “Award Tour.” And the new Black Eyed Peas album, Bridging the Gap, continues the groove. I somehow happened upon the CD sans video or single airplay, and I’ve been rotating it through my car stereo ever since. So it’s perfect timing for me to finally see the video for “Weekends” pop up on BET. This is another party track, with guest vocals from Esthera, who looks eerily like comedian Kathy Griffin, and a video right out of the ‘80s. (None of the shoes have laces, in other words.) We see the Peas slave away at their factory jobs, which all seem to involve inspecting newly pressed ice-cube trays as they slide down the conveyor belt, and make their way to a Studio 54-like club when Friday night finally arrives. And, for some reason, they’re all dressed like hippie versions of Anwar Sadat. This one’s worth a look, surreal and light-hearted, and if you like melodic hip-hop, I recommend you get your ass a copy of Bridging the Gap. Your ass will thank you. –AH

Blaque – As If
     (*½)  I’ve long suspected Blaque is the Disney Afternoon version of R+B girl groups like TLC, all G-rated posturing and tame innuendoes and, of course, the occasional lameass soundtrack song. The appropriately titled “As If” comes to us from the bowels of Bring It On, and it’s the kind of edgy creative material you can just picture Kirsten Dunst bobbing her head to. While film clips roll, the three girls of Blaque – each wearing a jumpsuit that bears a different primary color – dance and show off their navels in the school gym, try on cheerleading outfits and accost guys in the hallway. Eventually, we’re even treated to a Left-Eye-sounding rap, and you know, those raps never sounded good coming from Left-Eye, so here it’s abject fucking torture. –AH

Blink 182 – Man Overboard
     (*½)  Fuck, I’ll say. It’s about time for these guys to either get a new shtick or get off the pot. They’re already way past the point of referencing their old videos in new videos – now the joke is that we’re watching midget versions of the usual band members as they run naked down the street and past a blond porn star or play around on the set of the “Adam’s Song” video. At one point we’re treated to a midget parody of the Smashing Pumpkins “1979” video. Needless to say, it’s not exactly Swiftian satire. –AH

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – Change the World
     (**)  I’ve admired the efforts of philanthropists and charity organizations for years, but none has caused as much positive change as the rap group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Since Krazy Bone, Bizzy Bone and the now-incarcerated Flesh-N-Bone have used their powers for good, every impoverished citizen of America has received the gift of braided hair and a seemingly bottomless dugout packed with weed. The only noticeable side effect is the tendency to spit out rapid-fire, staccato rap lyrics about the thuggish, ruggish bone but, hey, it’s more than that bitch Sally Struthers ever did for the poor and beleaguered. So, anyway, “Change the World” is the second emotional rap song of the past two years built around the synth cords of Prince’s “Little Red Corvette,” and it opens with a panoramic shoot of the destruction of a neighborhood at the hands of rioting youths. But, wait, it’s the Bone Thugs to the rescue – all clad in black trench coats, they can perform miracles, like bringing back a wounded baby and fixing that VCR you swiped from the corner electronics store but dropped while you were fleeing from local law enforcement. The imaginative camera work and editing help offset some of the more outlandish elements, but it’s still not the kind of thing you can watch more than once. –AH

De La Soul f/Chaka Khan – All Good
     (***)  This is our other working-man melodic hip-hop video for the week, from the staple Native Tongues act and Chaka Khan, who’s finally come out of Prince’s shadow for the first time in three years. (Guess that means an early spring this year.) The setting for this video? The All Good Car Wash, where the De La crew puts a scrub and buff on a line of cars, which contain Khan, a hot model and a spooked white girl, among others. The proceedings get more outlandish as the video wears on, as some bikini girls pop out from a water-filled truck bed and computer-generated soap bubbles start to fill the frame. The indisputable highlight comes when a bird flies overhead and a man leaps and dives to catch the inevitable load of white droppings in his hand just before it would splatter all over the hood of his car. This isn’t the sophisticated but slap-happy De La Soul of years past, but it’s a welcome addition. –AH

Marilyn Manson – Disposable Teens
     (*)  This is one of those weeks where we get to watch a lot of the same old artists do the same old shit with no inspiration or variation. So here’s Marilyn Manson trying to offer up his transparent brand of social commentary while dressed in some kind of leather harness and feather boa. Oh, and check out his Pope garb, which he wears while a monkey frolics behind him – way to stick it to organized religion, man. “Disposable Teens,” as the title suggests, is a rebuke to the corporate world for relying on the teenage demographic for revenue and, in the process, making them and music artists into tools. And, of course, the video was world-premiered on “Total Request Live.” The song itself has the same simplistic guitar-and-drum-program sound of “The Beautiful People,” while the brown-stained video from director Samuel Bayer stays as far from its intended target as possible. (Guess the video wouldn’t get any TRL airplay if it visually backed up the song’s argument.) The finished product isn’t just ridiculous, it exposes Manson once again as one of the “disposable tools” he sings about. I mean, I wouldn’t get self-righteous if I were you. Your persona is just as marketable as any teen act’s. It’s because of your dumb ass we now have a Hot Topic in every mall. –AH

Offspring f/Redman – Original Prankster
Offspring f/Redman - Original Prankster
     (zero)  Oh man… just when you thought these guys couldn’t possibly sell out any more… I’m not getting this one at all, and I’m the hindsight-shamed bastard who once thought “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” was a hilarious commentary on the horrors of poorly executed race appropriation. You can tell this is The Offspring from the opening chords; they still haven’t varied their tempo or chord progressions in the least. The only difference this time is the contribution of the title vocal from rapper Redman (who’s pretty fly for a black guy) and a little guitar distortion right out of a bad AC/DC comeback album. And Director David Meyers, in between the shots of the PhD-carrying lead singer in his backward ball cap and the requisite ass shaking fly girls, brings us a series of pranks. From the kid who replaces the sandwich his dad normally eats with a dog-shit sandwich to the computer wizard who cuts the entire city’s power. All the while, Redman is the surreal devil’s advocate who goads these unsuspecting kids into their pranks, none of which are amusing or engaging in the least. The moral of the story? Never trust a rock singer named Dexter who thinks his use of the phrase “hoochie mama” in the year 2000 is the height of trendy. –AH
Offspring f/Redman - Original Prankster

Wu-Tang Clan – Tha Jump Off
     (**½)  On a whim, the members of the Wu-Tang Clan decide to ride an elevator back to the year 1988, where, as you might imagine, they encounter Will Smith in mid-time warp, rummaging for another Clash sample. This is the third or fourth time someone’s tried to bring back the original Adidas days of L.L. Cool J in the past year, and the Wu-Tang’s interpretation of the late-Reagan era is limited to the inside of one nightclub, where honies shake their asses, Gilligan hats abound and, yeah, someone does the Moonwalk. Not an incredibly imaginative video, but what would you expect from light-weight video director Joseph Khan, whose credits include the “Thong Song” and Janet’s “Doesn’t Really Matter”? This is a sweet-ass track that deserves a better clip but still stands up as a tiny bit better than adequate. –AH

Gay Video of the Week

Stevie Wonder – I Just Called To Say I Love You (1984)
     (*)  “No Arbor Day, no First of May…” In this bargain-basement, Reagan-era hit, Stevie rattles off a list of the holidays he won’t be seeing this year. The visuals consist almost entirely of a murky blue-and-white cloudscape, which scrolls diagonally while Stevie’s profile – which, by the way, is singing into a pink neon phone the entire time – is framed in the right half of the screen. As the video finally runs out of budget, we’re left with no cloudscape, just Stevie and his Sports Illustrated free phone, as he ignores the thousands of fans at the arena and just addresses his emotions to the fucking phone instead. (Man, if I had a dime for every time I paid fifty bucks for a concert ticket and was shunned by the artist in favor of his girlfriend, who was on the other end of the phone.) This video just plain arouses my ire and is just one of many notches on Stevie’s ‘80s-embarrassment bedpost. –AH

Leon's Ghetto-Ass Video of the Week

Kelly Price – You Should've Told Me
     (***)  Former Mariah Carey backup singer Kelly Price burst onto the scene in 1998 and impressed everyone with her incredible voice... and her incredible girth. (Hey, I'm a fat guy myself, I can talk). She disappeared for awhile, and now she is back, a hundred pounds lighter to boot – damn, I need to know her diet plan. In this video, KP is dealing with a boyfriend who always looks at skinny women in magazines, TV, etc. This annoys KP, but she takes it all in stride. Even drags this sorry bastard to the clothing store, where he proceeds to dis every piece of clothing she tries on. One day, when they are at home, he sees a hot hootchie on the TV, and KP is fed up with this. So she does what any other pissed off woman would do. She goes to his closet, and picks up a dumbbell and throws them at the mirrors (seven, wait, fourteen years of bad luck). Then, she drags out a treadmill, much to the amusement of her beau – hell, I even wanted to slap that smirk off his face – and proceeds to toss it out the window of their beautiful high rise apartment and right onto his strategically parked convertible down below. Remind me not to make this heffa mad. This video gets an extra half star, because, (a) the bastard got what he deserved, and (b) you should be happy with yourself, no matter what someone says. Leon Bracey

Classic Video

Sarah McLachlan – Sweet Surrender (1997)
     (***)  This is one of those rare videos that credits its director as “Allen Smithee,” the standard guild name given to finished products the auteur is unhappy with and wishes to disown. And it’s hard to understand why, since “Sweet Surrender” is one of the few Sarah McLachlan videos I have no reservations about enjoying. That’s despite the “Touched By an Angel” imagery that has a mysterious robed man (Christ Smithee, perhaps?) rescuing individuals from certain peril. Like the time McLachlan was cornered and assaulted by a chair-wielding Paula Cole. Ugly, ugly Lilith Fair episode… All juvenile, libelous jokes aside, I like the fast-dissolve imagery in the video, from the pans through the woods to the silhouette head shots of Sarah herself, still as waifish and gerbil-faced as ever. “Sweet Surrender” is all blues and greens and ethereal mood-setting, and it works well with the song. –AH


Copyright 2000 Andrew Hicks