Fatboy Slim – Sunset (Bird of Prey)
     (****)  This video takes its precious time to get started, but it pays off. Big-time. “Sunset” starts out by showing a black-and-white election-year commercial for President Johnson that is both desperate and painfully morbid. A little girl is in a sundress, plucking the petals off a rose, counting them as she goes. The director juxtaposes this with a control-room countdown to nuclear holocaust, as the camera pulls into the kid’s eye and the mushroom cloud erupts dramatically. “These are the stakes,” President Johnson announces in his comically ominous hayseed voice, “to make a world in which all of God’s children can live or to go into the dark. We must either love each other or we must die.” An announcer then cuts in, “Vote for President Johnson on November 3. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.” (How much more Big Brother were the ads back then? That’s downright frightening.) An average-looking man is watching this and waiting for his chance to serve God and country. He marches off to the plane as quick-cut patriotic imagery is patched in. The music doesn’t get techno for a couple minutes or more, when the video finally reaches its Top Gun-like take-off segment and becomes another degree of fascinating. And, then, the segment with the played-in-reverse bombing mission. There’s some imagery here that I love, and this clip is the most fascinating purely visual statement I’ve seen within the artform of music video this year. (If that doesn’t sound too pretentious a thing to say.) I’m serious, though – if you happen upon “Sunset,” sit down, pay attention, soak it in. Particularly the emotional impact of the final shots. This is almost mind-blowing. Who directed this? And could this particular record be Fatboy Slim’s response to Moby’s Play? Are these guys trying to outdo each other like the Beatles and Beach Boys, or what? Is adult-contemporary New Age going to become the accepted resting place for techno and electronica? Go ahead. Discuss. –AH
     NOTE: The first time I saw this video, on The Box at about 12:30 Thursday night, it was immediately followed by the deliciously ironic announcement, “Box Tops is brought to you by the United States Army Reserve. Be all you can be.” No joke.

Lil’ Bow Wow – That’s My Name
     (**)  I have to hand it to Lil’ Bow Wow, he really tries to be a gangsta of miniature proportions. But it’s just plain impossible to take any video seriously that stars an 11-year-old kid who sits in class, stares down his (surprisingly hot) teacher and declares, “I’m the flyest thing walkin through the junior-high schoo!” The video definitely has its comic value, as you can tell, with Lil’ Bow Wow waving suavely to a cute teenage girl who’s sitting across the room and later pissing off his teacher when he takes a cell phone call from J.D. during class. (TEACHER: I know you are not on the phone!) There is, of course, the requisite Jermaine Dupri cameo, and he actually hasn’t popped up in any of the videos I’ve reviewed in the last – what’s it been, four weeks? What’s cool, though, as long as this kid is going to re-appropriate the chorus line “Bow wow wow yippie yo yippie yay,” is that there’s an appearance from Snoop Dogg toward the end. Snoop pulls up in his car, exhales a green smoke cloud that reads “Woof” and intones, “Calgon, Calgon, take me away.” For some reason, this week’s batch of videos is really leaving me bemused, and “That’s My Name” is certainly no exception. –AH

Lil’ Kim – How Many Licks
     (**½)  Our second “Lil’” video of the week is “How Many Licks,” which turns out to be just as vulgar and cockteasy (the Microsoft Word dictionary doesn’t seem to think that’s a word) as the double entendre title would suggest. Yeah, the chorus appropriates the Tootsee Roll Pop slogan, “How many licks does it take till you get to the center?” and Kim also declares herself “hotter than a Pop Tart fresh out the toaster.” The more she compares herself to tasty consumer products, the more you realize that’s exactly what Lil’ Kim is, and this video’s director has fun with that notion. We see Kim in a half-dozen or more sexy costumes, from “Nightrider Kim” to “Pin-Up Kim.” She’s both nasty and alluring in all of them, and the video’s sci-fi camp approach helps distinguish “How Many Licks” from the seemingly endless supply of soft-core porn/hip-hop videos out right now. –AH

Master P – Souljah
     (***)  This video popped up four times on a six-hour tape I made last night of The Box, so the people out there must be diggin’ this. I normally can’t bring myself to listen to Master P’s shit, especially the  P songs that involve some repeated, uninspired chant like, “Make ‘Em Say Uggggghh!!” or, here, the old “I don’t know, but I’ve been told,” military-march chant. But “Souljah” now has the distinction of being the only Master P video I like. The entire thing is computer animated, and more impressively so than the Red Hot Chili Peppers “Californication” video. The visuals involve a lot of drill sergeant shit, an elaborate War Room set and, of course, the No Limit gold tank. And there are even computer-animated booty bitches toward the end. Check it out. –AH

*N Sync – This I Promise You
     (*)  It’s the dead of fall, and that means it’s time for another touching *N Sync ballad release. Oh, God. We can be thankful there’s no Gloria Estefan this time, but I swear, Justin Timberlake’s lead vocals directly channel the adult-contemporary ghost of the dreaded Richard Marx. “This I Promise You” is filmed mostly in the woods, where a turtleneck sweater-wearing Justin and the boys emote and bubble-encased memories literally fall from the sky. As the song climaxes, the five members of *N Sync are having lunch outdoors at a café, each of them looking about as excited as we are to be watching this interminably boring bullshit. –AH

Sade – By Your Side
     (**½)  Every now and then, I play a little game with my friends. Music industry pundits we are, we’ll make ludicrous bets on which faded band is coming out with a new album next. Like, it’s the year 2000, and suddenly we have to hear from The Hooters again. So somewhere down on my Unlikely Comeback list, with 5:60 odds, is Sade, the lounge act – it’s a sophisticated lounge act but a lounge act nonetheless – with a sexy, throaty lead singer and tight, New Age jazz sound. I have to admit, Sade is a guilty pleasure, the kind of thing I like on occasion when I’m in a corny-ass mood or simply want something to fall asleep to. It’s not fully credible, but it’s kinda cool. “By Your Side” is even more mellow than the average Sade groove (I know, if the average Sade groove were any more mellow, it would require resuscitation) but just as dripping with sensuality as the best of them. And Sade Adu herself, having somehow given the video for “No Ordinary Love” a desperate, smoldering quality, is sexy as hell here. She spends the video in an alternate world somewhere between the New York City sets from Sleepy Hollow and any random cross-section of What Dreams May Come, and most of the imagery is effective and somehow emotional, in that VH1 way. This could grow on me. –AH

Snoop Dogg presents… Tha Eastsidaz – G’D Up
     (**½)  That’s how this video (and, if I remember correctly, the album) is billed, and Snoop Dogg’s name being attached to it was basically the only reason I initially left this on during a routine BET channel surfing. Snoop was a guest on “Rap City” or some shit – and dropped one freestyle line you’re not likely to hear on MTV anytime soon. (“Live here in ‘Tha Bassment’ on BET ‘Rap City’ with my nephew Tigga my N-I-Double-G-E-R, I can’t say it ‘cause ya know I’m a stizzar and goin farrah. ‘G’D Up,’ here we go y’all.”) Snoop was on there solely to promote this album, and the appearance seemed kind of dated because this video, “G’D Up,” is from the fucking 3 Strikes soundtrack. You know, that poorly reviewed ghetto comedy that was supposed to go into wide release until someone realized how lame it was. There aren’t any clips from that movie, though, and the groove is actually pretty fucking cool – was Dr. Dre involved? It’s worthy of his newer shit with a few nods to Dre’s (superior, I think) old shit. And it now has the distinction of being the rap video that features The Hottest White Chick Ever To Appear on BET (Even In An Informercial). Not bad and, as Snoop sayeth, “Tha Eastsidaz is plat’num, bruh!” You’d be a fool not to own a copy.* –AH
     * = Another good thing I can say about Tha Eastsidaz is, at least, Snoop got it right by recruiting a next-generation Nate Dogg who can be simultaneously and suave and irredeemably lascivious to unintended comic effect. There’s a dude who pops up toward the end that totally has the Nate Dogg thing goin’ on.

soulDecision – Faded
     (*½)  I never intended to review this – I was just going to let it die its six-week death on The Box – but I was looking through the Billboard charts the other day and noticed the soulDecision album had gone gold, so that means a half-million of you motherfuckers own it. And you know who you are… “Faded” is the first I’ve seen from this band, who is spawned from that sub-genre of boy bands who actually play instruments. (An entry in the Bible’s lost Book of Maurice might read, ‘Hanson begat B.B. Mak and B.B. Mak begat soulDecision.’”) It’s the kind of ultra-polished, commercial-happy look that Savage Garden made popular again a few years ago, and this gimmicky video, which is set in one “Hollywood Squares”-looking apartment complex, is alternatingly preppy and kitsch. I mean, “Saved By the Bell” kitschy. And it’s one of those thinly veiled pop songs where the pussy boyfriend is trying to coerce his girlfriend into having sex with him. You don’t want none. –AH

Gay Video of the Week
Mandy Moore – Walk Me Home
     (*)  I’ve been in good spirits lately, hit with just the right combination of disposable cash and new albums to buy. I’m slowly completing an effort to buy up the CDs I’ve loved over the past two years that belonged my old roommates, but I’ve also had time to purchase and rotate the new albums from Radiohead, OutKast, Madonna, Black Eyed Peas and the uneven but satisfying soundtrack to Spike Lee’s Bamboozled. And U2, Erykah Badu and De La Soul are next on the list. That said, I’ve been in a little better mood about the music world lately. Even shit like that Master P video up there doesn’t bother me. But I’ll be goddamned if I can sit through this transparent, Candyland video from 15-year-old pop singer Mandy Moore, who is competing with Jessica Simpson for the “virginal, adult-contemporary-ready” side of girl-pop music, since Christina and Britney have the slut side locked up. I feel like a pederast (8-year-olds, dude!) for saying this, but I think Mandy Moore is damn hot, although she’s nowhere near the pardon-my-French cocktease Britney is. So this ballad video, cardboard as a week-old bagel found behind the toaster, doesn’t deserve anything but VH1 midnight-to-six-safe-harbor airplay. It even has fake snow falling from the sky, a la the Vanessa Williams classic “Save the Best For Last.” Fuck it, man. –AH

Leon's Ghetto-Ass Video of the Week

Three Six Mafia – Tongue Ring
     (*)  The Three Six Mafia, those devilish bastards from Memphis that gave us that obnoxious summer jam “Sippin on da Syrup” (sippin’ on some sizzurp, sip, sippin’ on some sip...) are back with an obnoxious song for the fall. The budget for “Tongue Ring” was probably what it costs for snacks on a Hype Williams video shoot. The whole video consists of the rappers and their harem girls dancing to a purple or white background (damn blue screen!), with such state of the art effects as them shrinking or blowing up to the background. (You have to see it to believe it.) And all of Three Six’s bitches are hamming it up to the camera, showing off their tongue rings. I thought “Whodi” was Ghetto Video of the year, but this shit takes the cake.Leon Bracey
     (zero)  I work with a 350-pound black kitchen cook who has seemingly had this song stuck in his head for three weeks now. At random times, he’ll just call out, “Let me see ya tongue ring,” and I’ll be in the kitchen, getting bread rolls or something, and thinking, “Man, no, I’m not showing you my tongue ring.” One of the Three Six Mafia goes so far as to ask one girl, in the video’s intro, “Is [the tongue ring] rusty?” and I can’t tell if he’s trying to hit on her, insult her or just creep the girl out. Anyway, the video for “Tongue Ring” is a tacky, low-budget nod to such unrepentant sleaze as Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” and Wreckx-N-Effect’s “Rumpshaker,” with hired models writhing in scant clothes and sticking their tongues out sensually. The men stand on one side of the soundstage, like it’s a gender-segregated junior-high dance, and taunt the hot-and-bothered models with, “Let me see ya tongue ring!” and eventually a scary-looking female MC takes over the mic. Disturbing. –AH

Classic Videos

Edgar Winter Group – Frankenstein 1984 (Uh, 1984)
     (**)  This is one of those videos that basically died until VH1 Classic came along to resurrect its cheesy ass. The instrumental freedom-rock classic from Edgar Winter Group is updated for the all-synth, Axel-F era of pop music. It’s a direct response to Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit,” more or less, crossed with a bad-horror theme that smacks of the Huey Lewis video “Doing It All For My Baby.” So you get dated music and dated images, some of which are appropriately low-budget and spooky but most of which are ineffective and lead you to believe the video was filmed on the same white soundstage the same afternoon as other classics from Duran Duran and Flock of Seagulls. This is all standard horror imagery, from the Bride of Frankenstein to the bolt-necked monster himself and a mummy here and there. And some of the editing is downright incompetent. The video, though, is worth watching once for its bitchin’ breakdown sequence. –AH

Jackson 5 – Who’s Lovin’ You (1992)
     (**½)  This video was put together as part of the soundtrack to the miniseries Jacksons: An American Dream. (Remember that one?) But, essentially, it revolves around its own threadbare plot line, which involves a precocious little kid stumbling upon a seeming transmission from the Michael Jackson and his brothers, who appear on multiple television screens in an old house. The TVs, by the way, are covered in cobwebs. This little detail pays off later, when the wall clock literally starts going backward and the house is taken to the magical world of 1969, where there are no cobwebs. There’s some fun stop-motion action in this video, which also sees fit to include performance footage and photographic stills of the Jacksons, and the kid himself dons a magenta-colored pimp hat and busts into some Michael Jackson posturing at one point. It doesn’t make me want to watch the miniseries or anything, but the video – in its own oddly charming way – manages to get the job done. –AH


Copyright 2000 Andrew Hicks