Bon Jovi – Thank You For Loving Me
     (*½)  I misread the title at first – I thought this song was called “Thank You For Leaving Me.” I was thinking that might actually be a half-clever concept, Bon Jovi going into some moody country motif and thanking his girlfriend for dumping his ass. Nope, he wants to thank his girlfriend for loving him. Isn’t that sweet? Here we have the second video from Bon Jovi’s comeback album, Crush, and unlike the first single, “It’s My Life,” which had a “Livin’ on a Prayer” meets “Backstreet’s Back” vibe, this is a straight, old-school Bon Jovi ballad. Bland and inept, with lyrics like, “Thank you for being my eyes when I couldn’t see.” The video – from uber-prolific director Wayne Isham – is about as exciting, all European street cafes and old people tossing coins into fountains and a chick in a wedding dress running around barefoot. This almost has a Michael W. Smith vibe to it, and that’s not a good thing. You know what? When you breathe, Bon Jovi wants to be the air for you. –Andrew Hicks

Collective Soul – Why Pt. 2
     (**½)  Every week deserves its surprise, I guess, and this week’s comes in the form of “Why Pt. 2” (the sequel to the answer “Because we have to pay off our Discover Cards”). I’m surprised, first of all, that Collective Soul is even still around in this climate of boy bands and the fact that they were somehow usurped by the Goo Goo Dolls as VH1 Mush Rock Band of Choice two years ago. And second of all, I’m surprised that, at this point in its career, Collective Soul is releasing such an audacious, pseudo-stylish video. The lead singer, who has always prided himself on carrying grunge way past the point of cool, has been cleaned up and made over in the image of Rob Thomas or Johnny “Goo Goo” Rzeznznizczk. And the setting for “Why Pt. 2” is a sex-drenched party where the car keys go in a big bowl by the door and chicks make out with each other. It all resembles your average Lenny Kravitz clip or, once the guitar solo hits and everyone gets pushed in the pool, that new Ricky Martin video. But somehow, Collective Soul nearly gets away with it – this had my attention the whole way through – and adds one more power-chord song to its canon. –AH

Eminem f/Dido – Stan
     (**½)  Like most other people, when I first brought home The Marshall Mathers LP, I thought “Stan” was the standout track. Since early last year, I’ve considered Eminem a crack storyteller and, in his own sick way, social commentator, and this was his big stab at Meaning. And, yeah, I still admire the song’s premise – which is delivered as a series of fan letters to the rapper from a fan who grows more and more crazed as he goes – but forgive me if I don’t buy Eminem’s sympathetic, polite and almost rational depiction of himself. On the musical side of things, the Dido sample is compelling and well-matched, but it’s repeated in its entirety four times, pushing the song’s length to seven minutes. The video is just as long, Eminem’s big MTV epic – although the cable giant cut it to shit.* Even on the more liberal confines of The Box, there are 40 to 50 words missing, from “vodka” to “downers.” Dido, who has been more than humble about the fact that she owes her success to the fucked-up, bleached-blonde rapper, appears as the title character’s British girlfriend. She can’t believe he’s decided to dye his hair blonde and start wearing wife beaters, and as she sits in the bathroom, singing and re-singing her hook, Stan locks himself away in his Eminem shrine and starts writing letters. Most of the video – what isn’t covered up by strobe lights and rapid-fire editing – consists of Stan writing letters and mouthing the lyrics while occasionally cutting to a concerned-looking Eminem, complete with reading glasses, reading his letters at home. They could have made this a lot more interesting, and it doesn’t help that what would be the payoff of this strict reenactment of the song (the harrowing sequence where Stan is shouting into his tape recorder while his girlfriend is in the trunk) is hindered by TV censorship. If you haven’t heard the song on Eminem’s album, you’re missing the best part by watching this PG-rated bullshit. Still, from a technical and dramatic perspective, “Stan” really isn’t a bad video. It’s worth watching, no matter how frustrating the final product is. –AH
     * = Why hasn’t HBO or Showtime ever introduced an hourlong, late-night music video show that can bring us the uncensored rap and hip-hop videos (or material from any other genre that’s been put through the MTV cookie cutter) we crave? Now would be just as good a time as any – there’s more bullshit content censorship on MTV than ever before.

Everclear – A.M. Radio
     (*½)  Fuck, man, this is the last thing I want to come across at 2:45 in the morning, when my senses have been assaulted all day and I’m just looking for something soothing to spend a few minutes with before I trudge off to bed.* I don’t know whether to be appalled or bemused by this, but I’ll try to present a few objective facts at the beginning. What we have here is not only the gleeful sampling of a ’70s song (movie soundtrack staple “Mr. Big Stuff” by Evelyn King) but of the entire ‘70s. And somehow I just don’t think it was a decade meant to be interpreted by the simultaneously smug and perky lead singer, Art Alexakis. You know that creepy, knowing look he cops in every video? It’s ten times worse here… but I’m being objective here, so... This clip, directed by Alexakis, begins promisingly, with the sports-jersey wearing singer and the band performing on a soundstage with animated happy-face logos flowing down the wall and across the floor. Then, as Art bitches about VCRs and DVDs (“There wasn’t none’a dat crap in 1970”) the band begins to act out nostalgic fantasies. We see Art as Kojak and the band superimposed, “Buddy Holly”-style into old “Brady Bunch” episodes, while stock footage blue-screens in and out. The entire premise of the song, and even some of its rapping style, was lifted from Coolio’s “I Remember,” which was an extension of backward-looking songs like Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish.” Some of this is kind of amusing, and I always have a soft spot for cultural nostalgia, but it’s all just too… smug and perky. –AH
     * = And I’m so tired that I can’t help but wonder if I hallucinated the bumper-sticker phrase on the guitar player’s t-shirt, which looked like it read, “If this song is too pop… then it’s past your bedtime.”

Macy Gray – Again
     (**)  The fourth clip from Macy’s debut album, On How Life Is, is the blandest of them all, no thanks to the enormous, shock-white Afro wig on Macy’s head. It’s the only real focal point of “Again,” which is one of those, “Let’s roam our enormous, well-decorated place of residence,” kind of videos. Macy begins in the living room and makes her way through the hall of mirrors (where there is plenty of Intro to Film imagery) and into several more unfurnished rooms, each with its own lush carpet. Looks like a fucking showroom floor, man. Eventually, there are multiple Macys running around, in a panic, colliding with each other and destroying all the mirrors. One of them, in a fit of paranoia, accidentally flushes the multi-Macy stash, which – at this point – is probably the best thing that can happen to the chick. Lay off the weed, Macy, and make the epic concept video we all know you have in you… Police Academy 2000, baby, with no Mahoney or Tacklebury, just Hooks as far as the eye can see. –AH

Faith Hill – Where Are You Christmas
    (*)  I was wondering if there’d be a token soundtrack video from How the Grinch Stole Christmas and, if so, which cheeseball artist would be called upon. I thought the odds-on winner would be *N Sync, with possible Jessica Simpson ballad consideration. (My long-shot odds went to an All-4-One reunion single, but thank God it hasn’t come to that.) I didn’t even consider the pop-country side of things, what with Shania and The Corrs achieving a state of Muzack zen in Wal-Marts across the nation, but here we are: Faith Hill in Whoville, asking, “Where are you, Christmas? Why can’t I find you? Why have you gone away? Where is the laughter?” And so on. The bitch is inquisitive, I have to give her that, although she never thinks to ask, “Where the hell am I? Why did I let someone crimp my hair like a 1989 mall chick?” This video is loaded with film clips, naturally, while Faith walks around in the snow and beams at a little blond Whoville girl. And, yes, all this is exactly as lame as it sounds. –AH

L.L. Cool J f/Kelly Price – You and Me
     (*½)  The second single from the quizzically titled G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All-Time) album is just as wack as the first. Our hopelessly un-hip hero once again spends four minutes trying to convince the potential conquest of the song title that he is much more efficient, wealthy and sensitive than her existing boyfriend. As the song opens, L.L. witnesses a fine woman get in a fight with her boyfriend, who drives off and leaves her in the ghetto neighborhood. “This block foul as hell,” declares the venerable rapper, and he offers to let her use his cell phone so she can call a friend to drive her out of this dangerous, dangerous place. But, as he conversates with her, she realizes she likes it rough and dangerous after all (“You seen me in Deep Blue Sea, right? That was a dangerous career decision”), and takes him up on an offer to ride in his Bentley. All this is rendered in bland, washed-out-color street images that make “You and Me” a little too reminiscent of 1996’s “Loungin’,” while the Hype-wannabe director intercuts soundstage footage of L.L. and the girl soft-porning it up and Price (sporting a fabulous jelly roll as always) contributes soulful lip synching. Not even remotely worth your four minutes. –AH

OutKast – Ms. Jackson
OutKast - Ms. Jackson
     (***)  Okay, the last time I reviewed a video from these guys, I still thought OutKast was one person. That’s my ignorant ass for you – after hearing “B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)” a few dozen times and reading glowing reviews of Stankonia, I ended up buying the album on the day of its release. (It’s kind of cool having disposable cash again.) And I’m still discovering new songs I like on it – Lord help us if they ever make a video for “Toilet Tisha,” which is like late-‘80s Prince gone horribly stanky. “Ms. Jackson,” the song from Stankonia most likely to get under your skin, is a sweet-ass second single, an ode to baby mamas and baby mamas’ mamas and… well, as Mike Myers would say, you can see the infinite patterns of regress. The whole affair takes place in and around an old farmhouse, where housepets bob their heads and lip synch, “Got My Mind Set on You”-style, and Big Boi and Dre spend their day cleaning the place up. As storm clouds roll in. And the rain starts. And the entire place starts flooding. “Ms. Jackson” isn’t too elaborate, and it doesn’t have half the rave energy of “B.O.B.,” but it’s an engaging video from a couple of crazy motherfuckers. As such, my hat’s off to ’em. (And, damn, when was the last time F. Gary Gray directed a video? I’m glad to have his ass back.) –AH
OutKast - Ms. Jackson

Gay Video of the Week

Big Mountain – Get Together (1995)
     (*)  Okay, we all remember Big Mountain’s adult-contemporary reggae remake of “Baby I Love Your Way,” from the soundtrack to Reality Bites, but how many of us were unlucky enough to experience the band’s extremely gay comeback attempt – a remake of The Youngbloods’ “Get Together”? And how many of us actually have the video on tape? Well, probably the members of the band and me, and I just taped it because I knew otherwise my friends would never believe such a thing existed. With the lack of cutesy, angst-ridden clips to fall back on, Big Mountain actually has to attempt to look cool here, and I’m sure I surprise no one by reporting that they fail miserably on that count. There’s a lot of black-soundstage lip synching, yeah, and black-and-white clips of somber-looking homeless people and the like, and every so often, the director will zoom in on an enormous black woman shedding a tear. And the tear always contains one of the band members, lip synching his ever-emotional heart out. Yeeeeuucchh, man, yeeeuucchh. –AH

Classic Video

Billy Joel – My Life (1978)
     (**)  From as long as I can remember, I identified this song as the “Bosom Buddies” theme – hell, I was watching that show at the age of five or six, which probably didn’t bode well for my sexuality. Then I saw “Bosom Buddies” turn up in syndication, and the theme song was some bland shit sung by an adult-contemporary wannabe-diva. I felt violated… Anyway, I’m at that stage of my life now where I want to like Billy Joel again – I thought his 1970s shit was pretty cool in my early teen years, when I was still partially under the spell of VH1, then I went into denial through most of college. (Except for “Only the Good Die Young.” I’ve always loved that song.) But here I am again, stagnating in Twentiesville and forced to admit Billy Joel is a catchy, catchy man. So I was kind of pleasantly surprised to discover this video on VH1 Classic. I had no idea it existed. As you’d imagine, though, it’s just a simple soundstage affair, with Billy sporting a sizable ’Fro and his band trying to look earnest and badass all at once. There are a lot of medium close-ups, too. I mean a disproportionate amount. This is a Billy that had no idea how ambitious and overbearing he’d be 11 short years later in the “We Didn’t Start the Fire” video. –AH


Copyright 2000 Andrew Hicks