Backstreet Boys – The Call
     (*)  I don’t know how it works exactly, but the Backstreet Boys still have the power to put any lameass fucking video they want at the top of the TRL charts. That’s where “The Call” has resided for, God, weeks now, though I’ve resisted, uh, the call to review the damn thing. But lately, I’ve been just too positive about the state of music video, and I have to remedy that. There’s still too much crap out there, taking up too much of the nation’s time and attention, for me to just slack off and review the stuff I like. So here you go, another sound-alike Swedish production masterpiece from the Backstreet Boys. The widescreen video for “The Call” is crammed full of intrigue, with the dirty one with the lip ring and the doorag (A.J., right?) going after a mysterious woman at a party and chasing her through a dry ice-filled subway tunnel. Then Howie gets zapped while staring at a billboard for his own band and flees to the comfort of a nearby supermarket. And, let’s see, Nick is running down the empty halls at a luxury hotel, where the maid winks at him. Fuck, man, the intrigue. How much more of this intrigue can we be expected to handle from the omnipresent boy group? I mean, it’s 2001 – it’s that futuristic, Kubrickian time – let’s flush the bastards down the toilet. –Andrew Hicks

Aaron Lewis of Staind and Fred Durst – Outside
     (**)  Yes, even the Family Values Tour has to slow down and get acoustic from time to time, as this tepid ballad from Limp Bizkit front man Durst and Aaron Lewis shows. (Good thing the title card is there to tell me Lewis is from Staind, because I’d never fucking know that on my own.) “Outside” the song is perfectly good until Durst pops in, wearing his subdued, navy-blue backward baseball cap for the occasion. I know your options are limited if you’re on this tour and need a pal to harmonize with for your big solo ballad, but there are better choices than Durst, who couldn’t sing his way out of a Chinese finger trap. (Though, admittedly, I realize it is physically impossible to sing your way out of a Chinese finger trap – I’m just reaching for abstract insults here.) The video consists mainly of life performance footage, rendered with one spotlight and the pair sitting on some metal stairs together, while crowd shots and backstage tour shit is cut in from time to time. Not exciting, but not a horrible song, either. Just kind of… commonplace. –AH

Lifehouse – Hanging By a Moment
     (**)  This is the first boring-ass acoustic rocker Buzz Clip of 2001, a medium-tempo track with gravely vocals in the tradition of Bush and STP and music safe enough for VH1 to smack its “Inside Track” label on. That said, this is an okay song and an okay video, nothing worth unleashing any venom for or, conversely, heaping any praise upon. These are just a few well-scrubbed fucking kids who are filming a video in empty bowling alleys and diners, which automatically means they’ve gotten past most of the record industry’s inevitable hurdles and now are in that maddening middle ground where you’re almost famous but have no idea whether you’ll achieve fame or how long you can possibly sustain it with a Christian-adoption-counseling-center name like Lifehouse. One thing I’m noticing, though – the record industry is becoming even more photogenic and superficial than it used to be. MTV has made things so even the front man for an edgy pop act has to look like a magazine jeans model. It’s impossible to be ugly and famous anymore. –AH

Marilyn Manson – Fight Song
     (**½)  “I’m not a slave to a God who doesn’t exist,” Manson declares, and Z-Music suddenly decides to stop airing his music videos. Really, it’s been five years since we first started hearing this man’s special brand of humanism, Satanism and rip-off rock and roll, and Manson has long since proven himself obsolete in the realm of social commentary and antidisestablishmentarianism. Not to mention, he hasn’t pissed off a single parent since late 1997. All those people who said he was going to have impressionable teens killing their grandparents in the name of the devil could never have realized their kids just wanted to ogle Britney and the Backstreet Boys instead. Kids want their entertainment mindless, not agenda-loaded, and Manson was just as much an armchair politician (or anti-politician) than anything. He spouts a few truisms and such here, but mainly he paints his face and puts on some of Elizabeth Taylor’s leftover gloves and steals liberally from Blur’s “Song 2.” The video has Manson playing outside in the rain while a high school football game wears on and someone axes up the goalpost. Which falls over in flames. Director Wiz does a decent job here of keeping the Manson shock act intact while emphasizing a more conventional visual flair, and the end product is probably the easiest Marilyn Manson video I’ve ever had to watch or review. Hence the almost-positive rating. –AH

Radiohead – Idioteque
     (**½)  Supposedly, Radiohead is going to get back to making actual videos when they release their next album this year, so I (presumably) won’t have to keep slapping a group I love with low ratings. I can’t help it, though – after downright perfect clips like “Paranoid Android,” “Just” and “Street Spirit,” how can a man be expected to sit through camcorder-taped lip synching from Thom Yorke and his still-crazy eye? “Idioteque” is an improvement over the video for “Optimistic,” though, if just because it’s filmed and properly edited and isn’t just a cheap live performance tossed into heavy MTV2 rotation. The music does appear to have been taped live, as it’s rougher than the album version and seems to go to great lengths to prove you can recreate the highly computerized noises of Kid A in concert. As such, the approach is somewhat fascinating, and I like the camera process director Billy Gent uses, but I can’t help but look forward to more of the ground breaking stuff I’ve come to expect from Radiohead. –AH

Snoop Dogg f/Master P, Nate Dogg, Butch Cassidy and Tha Eastsidaz – Lay Low
Snoop Dogg f/Master P, Nate Dogg, Butch Cassidy and Tha Eastsidaz - Lay Low
Snoop Dogg f/Master P, Nate Dogg, Butch Cassidy and Tha Eastsidaz - Lay Low
     (***)  Snoop is at his best when he’s adopting images from the classic gangster era of the Prohibition – say, hanging around a club called “Roaring Twenties.” He, Nate Dogg and the rest of the posse walk into the club after their Italian mob boss has told them to “lay low for awhile and, whatever you do, pretty please with a cherry on top, if you want to fucking live, stay away from the club.” What happens, none can say – this video is more concerned with showing slow motion shots of smoke being exhaled from the mouths of males and females alike. Nonetheless, “Lay Low” is a fun trip the whole way through, all blue and white tints and widescreen mood setting, and the only weak link is the requisite appearance from Master P, who is portrayed in a red tint. I guess because he doesn’t belong. Anyway, this is a Hype Williams joint and, yes, it is to be continued. QUESTION: How fucking overjoyed is Nate Dogg that Snoop’s had a comeback and now he (i.e. Nate) can actually work again? --AH
Snoop Dogg f/Master P, Nate Dogg, Butch Cassidy and Tha Eastsidaz - Lay Low
Snoop Dogg f/Master P, Nate Dogg, Butch Cassidy and Tha Eastsidaz - Lay Low

soulDecision – Oooh, It’s Kinda Crazy
     (*½)  Man, I’m not even going to comment on the title. I don’t even really want to review another video from the honky-ass boy group whose members try so very hard to convince us they have soul but really remind us more of Wham! than the Commodores or whoever they’re trying to be. “Faded” was their introductory hit, and it sounded a lot like “Oooh, It’s Kinda Crazy,” which is equally dance-poppy and George Michael-lite. As the video opens, one of the members of soulDecision wakes up, smacks his alarm clock because it’s playing “Faded” and he’s apparently as sick of it as we are, and looks out the window to find a gaggle of teenage girls waving signs and screaming. He finds another member of the group – why am I not surprised to learn these guys sleep in incredibly close proximity to each other? – shows him their legions of devotees, and they both take off. Meanwhile, another meek soulDecision member is engrossed in whatever he’s looking at on his laptop (I suspect the answer can be found at as two fans haul him off, and the remaining two boy group guys show up disguised as repairmen before the girls penetrate their cover. A car chase ensues. Yawn. –AH

Spooks – Sweet Revenge
     (***)  One of my favorite songs of last year was the little-played single from Spooks, “Things I’ve Seen.” Little played everywhere but my own damn CD player, which must have spun that $1.96 Wal-Mart single two hundred times in all. Spooks, if you’re not familiar with the act, can be best described as adult-contemporary hip-hop. There’s an entrancing female singer who’s a Sade Badu morph, and she actually gets to sing more than the choruses, and the rapping reminds me of strong organic shit like The Roots and (for those of you who are over the age of 20) Digable Planets. Most of the video for “Sweet Revenge” takes place in a drab, blue-green bedroom, where a man tosses and turns and can’t seem to fall asleep. (You can blame it on insomnia, I blame it on the five perfect strangers singing and rapping at him.) There are also performance sequences in a trendy nightclub whose patrons cross all lines of gender and ethnicity. This is one of those clips that’s pleasant but also so understated that it forces you to pay attention to the song itself. Which, in this case, can’t be a bad thing. –AH

Gay Video of the Week

Night Ranger – Sister Christian (1982)
     (**)  Come on, you know this song and video is about as gay as the Gay ’80s come, but I’ve always considered “Sister Christian” to be one of the guiltiest of Reagan-era guilty pleasures. Its placement on the Boogie Nights soundtrack (which features some of the best gay music of our past assembled on one handy disc) only cements Night Ranger’s status. So what kind of epic gay video would you expect from this pinnacle of MTV’s early days? Oh, one filled with the usual dark soundstage lip synching from the band, the singer of which is decked out in a referee-striped Polo. There’s also an elaborate story line involving, I suppose, the title character – Sister Christian herself – a nubile young hottie who’s graduating a blue- and purple-tinted high school and yet is wistful for her coming-of-age relationship with the creepy singer in the referee stripes. Or that’s how I interpreted it, anyway. I could be wrong. The only thing I’m truly sure of, 19 years after the fact, is that people absolutely should not try those perms at home. –AH

Classic Videos

The Beatles – The Ballad of John and Yoko (1969)
     (**)  Only MTV2 would follow the video for Nelly’s “E.I.” with this primitive clip for the funky, grassroots “Ballad of John and Yoko.” The song is one of those working-day, Lennon and McCartney throwaways, but it’s always been a sing-along favorite, particularly when listened to with a healthy amount of rum flowing through my bloodstream. (“Mmm, bloodstream rum…”) I had no idea there was an actual video for the song, and in reality, what we’re presented with here is a non-video. There’s depressing studio footage of the Beatles, barely on speaking terms, during the Let it Be sessions – one of them content and the other three wondering why the fuck John invited Yoko Ono to sit there and do her knitting while they were trying to create TIMELESS ART. Other visual highlights include the esoteric couple riding in the back of a limousine, John trying to talk on the phone at once and absolutely no indication that the song the Beatles are performing is the song we are listening to. Oh, and let’s not forget the fucking bed-in for peace. –AH

nine inch nails – Down In It (1989)
     (***)  When people talk about music videos causing brain damage and shit, “Down In It” is the type of clip they mean. Every second of this four-minute video induces stupor, and only a fraction of it actually features nin front man Trent Reznor. The rest is jarring, all psychedelic clip art and discontinuous camera shots with herky-jerky editing. It’s the kind of shit you can watch a frame at a time, for an hour, and still not make hide nor hair of. Naturally, I like this video, and I wish our friend Trent was still this dedicated to turning our minds to mush instead of spending all his waking hours with mouth to Marilyn Manson’s tingly private parts. –AH


Copyright 2001 Andrew Hicks