NOTE: In honor of the fact that the vapid (but still admittedly useful to the music video aficionado) network, The Box, has decided gracefully to bow out of my digital cable package and its very existence and become MTV2, I’m ignoring MTV1 this week and reviewing a week’s worth of shit I taped late at night from my new but infinitely superior video channel. This divine 24-hour channel that resembles the bare-bones, no-production approach of the original MTV, when there was only music and no “Real World” and the veejays could play old videos or obscure videos or even three songs in a row from a certain artist if they so desired or if certain viewers requested it. What I like about M2, it’s always a total toss of the dice as to what the next video could be. Yeah, they often disappoint with Blink 182 or the new one from Papa fucking Roach, but I think the network will help make this website a little more reliable – it sounds like a cop-out, I know, but some of those weeks I don’t post any reviews, the reason is simply because MTV is playing the exact same shit they played last week. And probably will play next week, too, with a few minor exceptions. If you still don’t have MTV2, write your local cable operator or call 1-800-CABLE-ME-YOU-BITCH and request it be added to your package. That’s my bit of propaganda for the day; now on to my half-assed theme week…


The Beatles – Help! (1965)
     (***)  M2 has been rotating Beatles videos left and right lately, in honor of the best-selling album in the country – nay, the world! – 1. (I’ve already given my little rant about how I’d rather have people hear the entirety of the Beatles albums that matter than the 27 pop songs on 1, but I will admit, those sales figures are hella impressive, and it’s never painful for me to watch the Beatles best the fucking Backstreet Boys.) Anyway, I’ve seen clips for “Penny Lane,” “Get Back,” “The Ballad of John and Yoko” and this, the title track from the Beatles 1965 movie. It’s been ages since I’ve seen Help!, so I may be wrong about this, but I think this entire black-and-white performance sequence is lifted from the movie (which wasn’t in black and white, though, was it?) minus the credits or something. I don’t know, I’m confused. I should really do some research for these reviews sometime. –Andrew Hicks

Blur – Song 2 (1996)
     (***)  English alt-rockers Blur were probably the last people who imagined they’d create a Jock Jam, but that’s exactly what became of the two-minute “Song 2,” best known for its frequent and irresistible cries of “Woo hoo!” The video is simple but effective, set entirely in one sparsely decorated, oddly wallpapered room that begins to bulge at the seams toward the beginning and literally has a tornado tear through it as the video nears its conclusion. Its lack of props flying about keeps the special effects budget low and, really, the video just relies on its own charm, with the Blur guys dancing and storming around the room and watching themselves bounce off the walls. Good, short video. Mediocre, short review. –AH

Common f/Macy Gray – Geto Heaven (remix) (2001)
     (***½)  And so we arrive at the third video from Common’s breakthrough hip-hop album, Like Water For Chocolate. An album I bought eight months ago, from an artist I’ve slowly seen build an airplay audience since. His second single, “The Light,” improved lyrically and beat-wise upon the first single, “The Sixth Sense,” and now the third single, “Geto Heaven,” leaves the other two in the dust. The song was good on the album, with vocals from D’Angelo, but “Geto Heaven” is fucking TIGHT now, thanks to a quality remix and the work of Macy “Bush” Gray. Dammit, I knew I had hope for her, and I knew the Casey Kasem-countdown shit the record company was pumping out to VH1 and MTV wasn’t the best she was capable of. (I’m betting “I Try” was originally intended for Tina Turner, and Mrs. Ike is feeling damn sorry she turned it down.) This here is the Macy Gray I love, a husky-voiced, playful accompanist to skillfully rapped male vocals – it worked on the Black Eyed Peas album, and it works again. The video itself is low-budget, but it reminds me of a really good Magic Eye picture with an autumn color scheme. (Sorry, I had my fashion patterns analyzed a couple days ago and, well…) “Geto Heaven” is strong ’70s sci-fi with bright visuals and trippy perspective, a hell of a ride through the cosmos from director Nizingha Stewart. Carl Sagan would be pleased. –AH

De La Soul – Me, Myself and I (1989)
     (***)  One thing I see far too little of MTV2 is the progressive hip-hop videos from about a decade ago, the thoughtful, melodic shit from A Tribe Called Quest, the Jungle Brothers, Digable Planets and these guys, who have recently reinvented themselves as a lot less… oh, I think the word I’m looking for is “tacky.” This is one of those videos filled with horribly exaggerated Kid ’N Play hair, bright-ass Polo shirts and post-Adidas streetwear. The bulk of “Me, Myself and I” takes place in a classroom, with the rappers sitting behind desks and Professor DefBeat lecturing on the fall of the Byzantine empire to the marauding armies of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (or whoever). The video is more artifact than anything, and it serves as a reminder that groups like this, stuck in a time like that, might be better off heard and not seen if they want to be taken seriously and not become a short-lived Black Buzz Clip Of The Month. –AH

Nelly Furtado – I’m Like a Bird (2000)
Nelly Furtado - I'm Like a Bird
     (***)  I always wait like one week too long to buy those new-artist albums that discount stores like Best Buy and Target introduce at insanely cheap prices – but only for a half-month or so. Like, when I’d barely heard of Fiona Apple, before I’d seen one of her videos or anything, I debated buying her CD for $6.99 at retail stores all week. And when I finally decided I wanted to buy it, suddenly the fucker cost $13.99 like all the other CDs. The process happened to me all over again in the past couple weeks with Nelly Furtado. I read all sorts of good reviews of her album, it even landed itself on a few critics’ year-end lists, and the single was growing on me. Seven bucks didn’t seem too much of a risk, but in the end, I turned it down because I didn’t want to explain to my friends, one by one, why I owned a CD called Whoa, Nelly! But after seeing this video a few more times, I realize I missed my window. Nelly Furtado’s voice mesmerizes me, her body doesn’t hurt* and the single is far catchier than I originally thought. And now, if I want to buy the album, I’ll have to pay full price. Foiled again. Now, the video itself? Just as surprisingly cool, for VH1 material. It starts with a shot of her standing in front of a tree, while the camera angle switches so rapidly it looks like the entire forest scape in the background is tripping balls. Then you find out she’s actually about four feet off the ground. The entire video is full of this floaty visual shit, because she’s like a bird and all. It’s like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon crossed with What Dreams May Come. Some of this is a little too cutesy-ethereal, but the finished product is hard to resist. –AH
Nelly Furtado - I'm Like a Bird
     * = I know I’ll get a couple You Sexist Pig letters for this, but somehow it’s easier for me to listen to girl-music if I can fantasize about the girl who’s singing it while she’s singing it.

Green Day – Warning (2001)
     (**½)  And so we arrive at the second video from Green Day’s post-Blink album of the same name (i.e. Warning, not post-Blink), which by all accounts is even poppier than their last record. Whatever, I can always handle one more watered-down punk song on the radio, and this one isn’t half bad. Video-wise, “Warning” is similarly appealing – it falls into that category of “pleasant, but not something I’d seek out.” It begins promptly at 6:30 a.m., with a weasly-looking man rolling out of bed and getting ready for his day while Green Day plays in the living room. He is our everyman, I suppose, and through the entire video, he breaks our culture’s safety taboos. He drinks milk after the expiration date, eats raw chicken, swallows his toothpaste, drives while simultaneously drinking coffee and talking on his cell phone, stares into the sun, etc. Some of it is amusing, particularly when filtered through the protagonist’s glazed, uncaring eyes, but too much of it is just cute for its own sake. Like the shots of the guy ripping the tag off the mattress and going swimming immediately after eating. Still, I can’t give the video anything less than two and a half stars for its lightning-fast but hilarious parody of Radiohead’s “No Surprises” video at the very end. –AH

COMMERCIAL BREAK – Free Tarot Card Reading (2000)
     I can’t let myself assign a star rating to M2’s commercials, but I’ll warn you upfront – if you give yourself over to the music video bug, you’ll end up watching a lot of tarot-card commercials featuring psychic Miss Cleo. If you’re ever up past 11:00 at night, you know who I’m talking about, the wee-hours Jamaican mystic with the phony accent that sounds more Irish than Marley. She’s the new breed of psychic friend, the Oprah Clairvoyant. Not only will she read tarot cards for you, but she’ll act like she cares and reassure you and tell you that you absolutely have to read She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb, honey. And, I’ll admit, Cleo is pretty funny, too. I might be tempted to call 1-900-TAROT-SCAM or whatever if I thought I’d actually reach Cleo on the other end and not one of her swarthy minions. –AH

Mystikal – Danger (2000)
     (**½)  And so we arrive at the second video from Let’s Get Ready, which features the smash hit “Shake Ya Ass (Watch Yo Self [Shake Ya Ass {Show Me What Cha Workin Wit}]).” At first, “Danger” sounds like a simple reworking, complete with a simplistic chorus belted out in James Brown-sounding screams. But it’s its own song, and it’s even more inexplicably entertaining than “Shake Ya Ass.” I love Mystikal’s delivery and flow; I guess he just had to get himself away from the dime-a-dozen, bargain-basement No Limit beats to get good. The video takes place in a desert, where Mystikal’s plane has gone down and he’s the only one to have parachuted to safety. The downed rapper wanders the desert for awhile until he happens upon the raven-haired beauty who sings the chorus and a gorgeous model who pulls up on motorcycle and saves him. Then nurses him back to health at a bump-n-grind hip-hop party, which actually resembles a harem more than anything. That the whole thing turns out to be an elaborate mirage should come as a surprise to no one except Mystikal himself. –AH

Prodigy – Firestarter (1997)
     (**)  God, has it really been almost four years since this shit was all the rage? Since this wide-eyed Brit anarchist with the makeup, male pattern baldness and devil horns first spouted his Cockney gospel on the airwaves? Guess so, and I can’t make any more sense of “Firestarter” now than I could in 1997. On the purest techno-pop level, it’s not a bad little groove, but it’s absolutely impossible to take seriously. After all, who can be edgy or badass when they’re wearing that fucking Hot Topic stars-and-stripes shirt? Alright, what we have here is a black-and-white video set in a sewer pipe, where Keith Flint or whatever his name is preens like a madman and spouts nonsensical lyrics. From time to time, people run by in a panic (“It’s the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – they’ve gone mad! Come with me if you want to live!”), but that’s about it. Nothing worth writing home about or dropping out of society for. –AH

Smashing Pumpkins – Today (1993)
     (***)  I’ve finally reached the point where I no longer consider the Smashing Pumpkins “the enemy” but in fact a valuable and noteworthy group. With a really obnoxious lead singer. And, now that I don’t physically want to strangle Billy Corgan on sight, I can appreciate the fact that the group also made some pretty damn good videos. Heading the pack are “Rocket” and “Tonight, Tonight,” of course, but the Pumpkins – and director Stephanie Sednaoui – also totally hit the mark with “Today,” which features a bow-tied Billy Corgan driving a milk truck through a pastel landscape and picking up hitchhiker-in-a-dress James Iha. (That’s right, coming to FOX this fall, it’s “James Iha: Chinese Hooker.” Friday night, 8:00/7:00 Central.) Corgan and D’Arcy later pull over and paint the milk truck and each other, Spin Doctors-style, while a couple goes at it out in the wheat fields. And I’m thinking, you’re a milk truck driver, you probably consider this a pretty damn good day. –AH


Tina Turner f/Elton John and Cher – Proud Mary
     (*½)  “This is a song about the oldest diva of all. Her name is… Mary,” Tina emotes, gazing upon the audience with a sultry temor as she sways her hips and snaps her fingers and taunts the audience. And her intro goes on for another three or four full minutes, as the star-studded audience at the 1997 VH1 Fashion Awards or whatever gets restless. Eventually, she asks them, “You know why? You know why?!” And Claudia Schiffer’s out there, going, “Why? WHY, TINA? For fuck’s sake, tell me and my new, smart-as-hell boyfriend, Stephen Hawking! You’re killing us out here!” And Tina, realizing she can’t possibly milk this dried-out fashion awards teat any longer, cops out and says, “Because… because… just because!” Then she and Elton share a wide-toothed grin and launch into their candy-ass, showboat rendition of the Creedence Clearwater Revival staple, which is intended less as tribute to a fine group* than an opportunity to package their publicists together and send them lobbying for a schlock-heavy, ten-minute chunk of a show like this. This is the longest Tina’s been on VH1 in almost a couple a decades. She has to live it up… Anyway, you might ask – you’re the video critic, why don’t you just shut your self-righteous mouth and describe the video itself for awhile? Ah, but I know that’s a trick question, asshole. There is no video, just a series of roving cameras and audience shots and a light-up disco floor for Cher to get down upon… Do you realize the combined age of these three is approximately 175? Tack a few zeros on the end of that figure and you have their combined reconstructive surgery bill. Gawd, gay videos make me catty. –AH
     * = VH1 Classic preceded this grab-bag selection with an obscure John Fogerty solo video that had me marveling at how perfectly the same his voice sounded after twenty years as it did in the original days of “Fortunate Son” and “Up Around the Bend.” Creedence is a bona fide American treasure.


Copyright 2000 Andrew Hicks