REVIEWS -- MARCH 19, 2001

India Aire – Video
India Aire - Video
     (***½)  I bought the Bamboozled soundtrack without ever having seen the movie – it was an impulse buy during a slow week, and I at least already knew the new Prince song on there was worth owning – but I came away with a distinct thirst for more India Aire. She was Spike Lee’s pet project on the soundtrack (is he banging her? does anybody know? someone get the E! network on the phone, dammit!), with one song prominently featured and five or six snippets of other Aire tracks at the end of the soundtrack, mostly just her and her guitar. All very soulful, clued-in music, from a album that had a tentative release date a half year in the future. I couldn’t even find anything about her on Napster. But Aire is officially on the track to the mainstream, I’m guessing. Her new video “Video” was recently sandwiched in between the Ricky Martin/Christina Aguilera duet and the latest Limp Bizkit event, and this one’s even Buzzworthy! (Item!) The video, which is not – repeat, not – a 40 Acres and a Mule production, is just one of those everyday Let’s hang out on our front porch and then wander our colorful neighborhood efforts. Somehow, though, Aire manages to turn the charm up to eleven and deliver a personal manifesto (“Am I less of a lady if I don’t wear pantyhose / My mama said a lady ain’t what she wears but what she knows”). Every sequence rings strong, from the music video audition piece to the walk through the orange grove, where a wise old man hands her a piece of buoyant fruit… “I’m not the average girl from your video,” the chorus says, and I thank God the affirmation is so right. “Video” is worth its weight in gold for one part alone – two bubble-headed white sorostitutes are headed into the video audition. They exchange a look that essentially dismisses Aire’s image, and Aire just tosses off a combination eye roll/pleasantly intelligent head shake that’s the absolute perfect wordless response. And the sorostitutes, of course, don’t catch it. They usually don’t. –Andrew Hicks
India Aire - Video

(hed) p.e. – Killing Time
     (***)  Granted, last year was a pretty weak one for the medium of music video, and I wouldn’t normally have put a clip like (hed) p.e.’s “Bartender” on the honorable mention list for best videos of the year, but it was a strong effort. (Hed) p.e. straddles the middle ground between Limp Bizkit-style wig-hop and cartoon metal and still manages to be entertaining, thanks to a front man who can let loose a tormented scream worthy of the Growl Rock Hall of Fame one minute and toss out a freestyle verse the next. So here we have “Killing Time,” a video destined to sink like a millstone because it’s being marketed as the token soundtrack vehicle from the Kevin Costner/Tiny Elvis vehicle 3,000 Miles to Graceland. (And who would have thought the final gross would only total a dollar or so for every one of those metaphorical miles? Besides me… and probably you.) “Killing Time” is harder edged than “Bartender,” which had smooth hip-hop undertones throughout, but the song does have a flow all its own. The video, when it’s not flashing indulgent anime renderings of Costner (I’m not making this up) or shots of Battlebot scorpions waging war on each other, is quite entertaining. The band clowns in the middle of the desert, blue tints abound, and one interlude leaves the (hed) p.e. front man painted in tribal black light like the unholy son of Busta Rhymes. Chaotic and fun, and it’ll get you halfway to Graceland all by itself. –AH

Don Henley – Everything is Different Now
     (*½)  No shit everything’s different now. You’ve got a rented nurse feeding you strained carrots, your prostate is killing you and, damn, you’ve still got a massive, undeserved adult contemporary hit in the family values ballad “Taking You Home (a.k.a. I’m Older Than Dirt).” So what do you do, ex-Eagle? You put out a song that points out how different everything is now yet still sounds a hell of a lot like your last single. Good going, Don. You’ve earned your can of Ensure for the evening. “Everything Is Different Now” is one of those journey-of-wisdom videos, with Don wandering the destitute side of a cocktail party and happening past two chicks who are making out with prosthetic tongues. (Don’t ask, it’s not my fucking video concept.) He drinks a little whiskey, sees an alternate, scarred version of himself cradling a bevy of injured beauties and eventually challenges them to a match of darts on a board that bears the face of Glenn Frey. (“Twenty bucks if you can hit the bastard in the pupil, there, injured beauty!”) –AH

Jennifer Lopez – Play
Jennifer Lopez - Play
     (**½)  I’m not even ready for a second video from J-Lo, but I have to admit this is the absolute first song I’ve heard from the actress/singer that has a beat I actually like. Granted, that’s probably because the sources ripped off here are from my own tacky music past, equal parts Janet Jackson (anything off of Rhythm Nation), 1991-era Paula Abdul (the title track from Spellbound had the same spooky two-note synth effect and, of course, the same weak lead vocals) and, yes, my man Prince. More precisely, the instantly recognizable guitar riff from “Kiss.” The final track is listenable though not exactly smacking of talent, and the video from Francis Lawrence is engaging at times. For once, J-Lo isn’t merely letting her ass hang out on the beach or forcing every male character to surf her damn website. No, she’s on a cosmic-looking plane bound for points various across the globe, and she’s got Princess Leia buns in another scene, a rave being held in what looks like the Turntable Hall of Fame. Later, they even make J-Lo look like Mya. Amazing special effects they’re capable of these days. And you’ve gotta love how, at the end, J-Lo finally goes all diva: “Now, Mr. DJ, I’ve asked you three times – play my (bleep)(bleep) song!” –AH
Jennifer Lopez - Play

OutKast – So Fresh, So Clean
     (**½)  A friend of mine summed it up best: “This is the silliest damn song I’ve ever heard.” And I guess when you’re the record company trying to follow the sing-song baby-momma success of “Ms. Jackson,” you have to go for broke and slap down a song that’s even more gimmicky, chorus-wise. But, dammit, there’s some irresistible alien quality to OutKast’s music, some intangible but hella smooth appeal that keeps you from ever changing the channel. The flow, if nothing else, is always reliable and witty. Dre and Big Boi rap from the outstretched hand of a giantess/goddess, and they guide us through their morning ritual, which involves bath time, a thousand blue candles and a vigorous session with the toothbrush. All the while, their thought balloons pop out of the widescreen frame and illustrate the fact that, yes, they’re going to get their new rims today. Okay, so this isn’t the most exciting video in the world, and I think they borrowed that funky beautician set from Destiny’s Child breakthrough video, but it’s worth watching just to see two guys sit down in church just as they declare themselves “the coolest motherfunkers on the planet.” –AH

Papa Roach – Between Angels and Insects
     (**)  Broken ho-o-o-o-o-ome. Broken ho-o-o-o-o-ome… Sorry, the mere mention of Papa Roach sends me into a lyrical stupor that has me reciting the chorus title line of their last single ad nauseum. I, of course, emphasize the “nauseum” part of that. So here’s their third video and, just like the last, all I’m really looking for is some kind of catchy guitar riff or sing-along chorus like their original song, the flawed but likable “Last Resort.” And I’m not finding it. This track is more whiny than anything, and the lyrics are insipid. First the lead singer (what’s his name, Coby Dick or something?) says, “There’s no money, there’s no possessions, only obsession,” then he says, right after, “Take my money, take my possessions.” Where’s the goddamned continuity? The video, from Joseph “Thong Sahn” Kahn, comes in murky shades of blue and tan, with the band all dressed like janitors and maintenance men who are spending their fifteen-minute on-clock break down in the basement, rehearsing for the weekend’s big gig. The Kleinman bar mitzvah. Cockroaches eventually come crawling out of ears and mouths, but you’ve stopped paying attention by that point. –AH

Britney Spears – Don’t Let Me Be the Last to Know
     (*)  Oh, God. That’s the wrong title to let fall into the hands of your cynical critic type, your average, opinionated guy who lives to rip apart substandard, uninspired entertainment offerings. And I don’t think I’m up to the challenge right now, the challenge of skipping the obvious one-liner reactions to the title, because I’m only thinking the obvious. Last to know, huh? Last to know what, honey? That you’re singlehandedly driving a stake further into the heart of good taste with each successive release? That you’re wearing Mariah’s short shorts from the “Dreamlover” video? That I’m starting to suspect your odd, impish vocals for this song were secretly sung by Taylor Hanson and electronically altered in pitch?* Last to know… shit, I bet you’d be the last to know the capital of Nebraska is Lincoln. Fuck it. I’m done thinking. You just can’t do that when a Britney Spears video is on. It sucks more brain cells down the drain per second than a bag of airplane glue fumes to the cerebral cortex. The song, of course, is horrible, I mean godawful, I mean worse than Pebbles’ B-material, and the video – from normally reliable fashion photographer Herb Ritts – looks like bad soft-core porn. Britney and her rented hunk of man frolic around her beach house, run in the sand and bask in the glow of the best teen cleavage money and surgical instruments can provide. The end result is painful as all hell, and it makes me wonder if the era of innocent, VH1-safe girl ballad videos (the uncharacteristically G-rated Britney and Christina releases like “From the Bottom of My Broken Fucking Heart”) is over. From here out, even the adult-contemporary market is guaranteed a stiffie. –AH
     * = Yes, I do have a Hanson/Britney Spears conspiracy theory, but it’s best not to ask about that.

Destiny's Child -- Survivor
Destiny's Child -- Survivor
    (**)  Two tribes go to the island of Chickenheads. Beyonce, Kelley and Michelle represent the Backstabing Bitches tribe. LaTavia, LaToya and Farrah represent the Dropped Like a Bad Habit tribe. They eat worms and rats and shit like that and compete to have the last word. The host is Beyonce's no-good-ass father, The Mole, who is secretly sabotaging the events so Beyonce can win.
Destiny's Child -- Survivor
    Okay, that was a bad joke getting worse. Anyway, these singers from America's fourth largest and most polluted city are seen lying on a beach in torn rags, and we are  treated to scenes of my baby-momma Beyonce writhing around in the water. Then we see the group members running around the island looking for something. They climb waterfalls and ogle native bushmen before they get into a heavily choreographed dance session while wearing fatigues and are rescued in a helicopter. Overblown, overdone, overrated, much like Beyonce's Children, er, Destiny's Child themselves. --Leon Bracey
Destiny's Child -- Survivor

Poison – Talk Dirty to Me (1985)
     (*)  At the drive-in… behind the tool shed… behind the butcher’s counter… in the deep end of the pool at the motor lodge… The men of Poison rattle off all the places they’d like to fuck some unnamed, big-haired beauty in what is without a doubt the most gay of videos I’ve come across this week. As we all know, the entire eighties was pretty damn gay, but the hair-metal era served as its prolonged, tantric climax. And, damn, I don’t think soundstage videos get any more embarrassing than this – well, this and the four or five other Poison videos that look pretty much exactly the same. The smoke machine is working overtime, the hair is teased feet high, and guitarist C.C. Deville is determined to perform some of the most pathetic feats of silent comedy known to man. Including a solo delivered while lying on his side on the floor, spinning in circles, Homer Simpson-style. And is it just me, or did Bret Michaels steal his hat from Saddam Hussein himself? Now that’s one gay Iraqi! –AH


Nancy Sinatra – These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ (1966)
     (**)  I remember the time one of my friends sang this song during one of those long karaoke bowling nights. The DJ called “Chairman Frank” up to the mic, and my friend did “These Boots Are Made For Walking” as the elder Sinatra, old and cranky and only too willing to threaten the life of another. (“One of these days, these boots are gonna walk all over you, ya friggin’ prick!”) The DJ never let my friend sing another song up there. Anyway, that’s what this vintage video from Nancy Sinatra makes me think of. I used to like this song, back in that childhood period of unmolded music taste, when you’re too young to realize what a queer line, “You keep samin’ when you oughta be a’changin’,” is. I don’t think Nancy realizes it either, the way she’s unselfconsciously leading a band of go-go dancers in sultry – for a performance that dates back to the Johnson Administration, anyway – dance moves. The whole affair takes place on one soundstage, and the editing and lighting are almost embarrassing at times. Not to mention, the lip synching is sometimes a full second ahead of or behind the actual vocal performance. –AH


Copyright 2001 Andrew Hicks