REVIEWS -- APRIL 30, 2001

Okay, we’re going to do a theme week here. It’s been awhile since the last one, and I hadn’t really planned to do one in the near future – I have too much brand new shit I haven’t even gotten around to reviewing – but MTV2 presented me with more material than I knew what to do with this week. They just finished up their Wall-to-Wall Women week, with videos from broads* past and present. I taped enough material for three weeks’ worth of reviews, but I’m not going to subject you to that. Instead, here are ten or so of what I consider the more notable – for reasons good and bad, but mostly good – selections I was lucky enough to stumble upon at random hours of the day, night and late, late fucking night.
--Andrew Hicks

 * = Yes, I use that word with irony, 
thank you very much.


MTV2: Wall-to-
Wall Women Week



Eve f/Gwen Stefani – Let Me Blow Ya Mind (2001)
     (***½)  If you would have caught me at various points in the last two or three years, I would have told you that: a) Eve’s flow was okay, but her production and whack-ass nursery-rhyme choruses sucked the fat one, b) Dr. Dre was down for the count after the Firm fiasco and that bullshit Aftermath compilation and, c) I would never again fall for the ska-pop treacle offered up by the Gwen Stefani/No Doubt camp. Now here we are, almost midway through 2001, and all of the above have proven me wrong on those three counts. “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” is a catchy fucking hip-hop tune with strong lyrics from a), production from b) and a chorus provided by c).
     The video improves upon the song, with usual Dre/Eminem director Philip Atwell offering up a stylish, fun four-minute romp that manages to shake the novelty-only feeling of most Atwell videos (much as I’ve enjoyed them). Eve, leading her motorcycle-bound posse down the rain-slicked night streets, happens upon Stefani at a stoplight, behind the wheel of her car. The Ruff Ryder extends the hand of sistahood to the white ab-queen, and they roll off to a high-class party together.
     Stefani, wearing less than the median amount of fabric contained in a typical Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera outfit, holds her own next to Eve, who is poised and sensual in a way she failed to achieve back in the “Gotta Man” and “Love is Blind” days. Witness the police mug shot/lineup sequence toward the end.
     Dre pops up in cameo form, naturally, but not until the MTV end titles have already graced the bottom left corner of the screen, and he actually adds a little something to the video. What I’m going away from “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” with, though, is the feeling that I’d love to mingle at any party that had this precise combination of bureaucrats, gangstas and good-natured ho’s. –AH
     (***)  Well, there is something besides my mind that Eve and Gwen can blow, but this is a family site... Anyway, Gwen is transforming from Punk Princess to Ghetto White Girl right before our own eyes.  It started with her cameo with Moby on "Southside" (Did you guys know that Play is fucking wonderful?) and continues with this video. Eve is looking as sexy and beautiful as ever, as the two crash a classy party with their bravado and chutzpah. One of the socialites decides to rain on their parade by calling the police and sending them away.
     Tight video, tight beat. In case you were wondering why this sounds more like a laid back, West Coast groove rather than the rough-edged Ruff Ryders material that Eve usually does, Dr. Dre has a brief cameo in this video. (Hmmmm, I wonder who produced this?) --Leon Bracey

Belly – Feed the Tree (1993)
     (***)  This video falls into the same category as the one down the list from Jill Sobule, and I just wrote a longass review for that, so go ahead and skip up to that one and then come back up here, will ya?
     Alright, you back now? Okay, this Belly shit falls in that nostalgic, time-capsule category of videos, and it’s a really strange reaction because I forgot about this song, had it fade entirely from my consciousness, and never again came across the video. (I never taped it because, by the time it actually had grown on me, it was out of rotation, never to return.) MTV2 hooked me up with some Belly this week, though, and I’m willing to bet a fiver it was put on the playlist by one Jancee Dunn.*
     “Feed the Tree” is a pleasant alterna-pop video from director Mark Lindquest with constantly spinning cameras and trippy forest-scapes, whilst the oddly sexy lead singer lip synchs and, what, guitar synchs? Is that what you call that? The guys in the band are there, too, though the close-ups don’t exactly favor them. Solid video all around, and it kind of makes me curious to hear the Belly album. I’m sure at the local used-CD store it could be mine for the low, low price of $2.99. –AH
     * = My theory on Jancee Dunn, for those of you who have M2 and/or read Rolling Stone and might have a clue of who she is (Jancee’s not quite as recognizable to the masses as, say, Miss Cleo), is that she’d be the kind of woman I would love to take out once or twice, maybe make out with or something. But then around mid-Date Three, something would click off in my head, and I’d suddenly be done with pseudo-intellectual prattle. I mean that in a nice way, because I spew forth amazing amounts of pseudo-intellectual prattle and like to think I can sense when people are ready to stop hearing it and move on with their lives. Nothing personal, you understand.

Pat Benetar – We Belong (1984)
     (*½)  Am I the only person who thinks Pat Benetar was the love child of some unholy sexual union between Enya and “Dynasty” star Joan Collins? I have no idea which provided the sperm and which the egg, but I know that all their lesbian offspring had to do to start a music career was get a little eye liner permanently tattooed to her face and slap those junebug-looking jade earrings over each lobe.
     I was waiting for “Love is a Battlefield” to pop up during this whole MTV2 showcase of women’s videos, because I believe it to be the bar-none funniest wannabe youth-rebellion video of the Reagan era, but “We Belong” was the best the channel could offer me. And, yeah, it’s definitely got plenty of embarrassing comedic moments of its own.
     The video opens with an extreme close-up of Benetar’s face, hovering and floating over this white, amorphous abyss. Cut to her and her band, playing on a white soundstage while someone’s clean laundry hangs out to dry all around them. What stands out most among all this white is Pat’s green pair of gloves – her fingers bunch up in them and make the gloves look like the grapes from the Fruit of the Loom commercials.
     And just you wait until she puts on the Sheena Easton secretary power suit and stands in front of a waterfall while some kids choir in robes, all holding candles, echoes the chorus. It’s not pretty, not pretty in the least. –AH

Cranberries – Dreams (1994)
     (**½)  And, if you call in the next ten minutes, we’ll toss in Pure Moods For The Politically Irish Set, with that one from the Cranberries, that one from the Cranberries, and that other one from the Cranberries… –AH

Destiny’s Child – Bills, Bills, Bills (1999)
Destiny,s Child - Bills, Bills, Bills
     (**½)  I reviewed this when it first came out, when I thought Destiny’s Child was just another TLC-wannabe girl group intent on capitalizing on the anti-scrub movement of 1999 (check out the corresponding paragraph in your American history textbook today; it’s Page 438, guys!), as opposed to just another TLC-wannabe girl group who won’t go the fuck away. But I’ve found them less annoying with time, and honestly, when you take away the bling-bling posturing, they’re just a spicier version of Bananarama with updated beats (i.e. recycled from newer sources).
Destiny,s Child - Bills, Bills, Bills
     Destiny’s Child has a few songs you can get down to before you eventually get sick of them. And, for me, “Bills, Bills, Bills” leads the back – it’s got an unintentionally hilarious vocal posturing I can’t resist. It distills the essence of Springer-guest bitching into a series of rapid-fire rapped complaints and periodic harmonizing from Beyonce and Group One of the Destiny’s Child Survivor Contest, all of whom were voted off the TRL island one bloody hair extension at a time until only Lady Beyonce remained standing.
Destiny,s Child - Bills, Bills, Bills
     But things are blissful and cooperative in this breakthrough effort, which sports more fashion faux pas (isn’t “faux pas” the plural of “faux pas”?) than Rip Taylor’s retirement bash and takes place in a neo-futuristic beauty parlor whose patrons spend less time getting the old shampoo, trim and shave than booty dancing around the parlor and shaming the one man who dares lurk around Itz Shear Destiny or whatever the place is called.
Destiny,s Child - Bills, Bills, Bills
     And, in closing, here’s a line copped from my original review of this video, written in the summer of 1999: “If you like ‘Bills, Bills, Bills,’ wait until you hear Destiny’s Child’s other hits, ‘You Ran Up A Damn Balance On My Discovah Card’ and ‘You Shoulda Had Your Tires Rotated (300 Miles Ago).’” –AH
Destiny,s Child - Bills, Bills, Bills

Fugees (Refugee Camp) – Nappy Heads (1994)
     (***)  One of many benefits of M2 is that I can see videos that were made before an act broke through. Take the Fugees – all you’ll ever see on MTV (or BET, for that matter) are “Killing Me Softly” and, like, maybe “Ready or Not,” but M2 busts out the stuff from Blunted on Reality, like the badass clip for “Vocab” and this real-keepin’-it video from the pre-stardom days of Wyclef, Lauryn and Pras.
     “Nappy Heads,” a Max Malkin effort, is shot in sepia tint on and around the streets of… fuck, I don’t know where. They don’t give me press kits for this gig. Wyclef spends half the video in a barber’s chair, where his mini-fro gets scalped, and a raincoat-clad Lauryn Hill delivers one of the best rhymes of her career*. Hell, all three of them deliver killer verses, and it makes you almost want to arrest them for not sticking together and putting out a collective follow-up to The Score and conquering the fucking hip-hop hemisphere of the TRL globe once and for all.
     Though obscure as hell, the “Nappy Heads” video was made on a budget so as to appear genuine, though I’ve never seen it on the other video channels. It’s worth a glance if you’re lucky enough to stumble upon it. –AH
     * = I don’t get it – she started out so much more credible as a rapper than she eventually became by the time she had released her acclaimed solo album, when you were wishing she’d just quit with the rapping and get to the choruses already.

Garbage – I Think I’m Paranoid (1998)
     (***½)  I’ve got this cool-ass coffee table book called Thirty Frames Per Second: The Art of Music Video that has excerpts from a rough-cut feedback letter Shirley Manson wrote director Matthew Rolston. He’s a fashion photographer by trade and usually does videos from the likes of Madonna and Vanessa Williams, not this type of glampunkpoptechno (if I had to lump Garbage into a category, you know…).
     Anyway, Shirley kisses old Matthew’s ass for awhile and then tells him to re-edit it (the video, not the ass) so there are less close-ups of her distorted mouth and her and her bandmates stomping their boots into the camera. Oh, and could you re-edit the first minute of the video so it’s more edgy? We’re looking for edge here, Matt.
     I’ll confess, I love Garbage’s Version 2.0 album and haven’t had a chance to see the video for “I Think I’m Paranoid” since its sporadic original airings three years ago. So I’m happy as hell to have taped it this week on MTV2. When I finally sat down to watch it all the way through for the first time – you know, pay attention to it instead of talking through it with friends and shit – and review it, I grabbed my Version 2.0 CD, thrust it into my Panasonic portable* and synched it up with the video. And, yeah, it was a full-bodied visceral experience.
     Shirley was right to request a re-edit – in the first minute and the next three, the pacing of the finished product is pitch-perfect, as Rolston busts out motion-blur and lightning freeze-frame effects, camera negatives and every type of visual distortion in the book. And it all works perfectly. The black-and-white photography keeps the fashion from looking flashy – rather, Shirley and the guys look somehow dapper and rebellious. Shirley herself, as always, is one irresistible, insatiable Scottish fireball. –AH
     * = Best $60 toy I ever bought from Best Buy. These CD Walkmen are getting really, really cheap these days.

Hole – Violet (1995)
     (**)  I have a feeling future cultures will place the video for “Violet” aside the silent horror movies of the 1920s and ’30s. Professors, mid-lecture, will declare, “American filmmakers of the Depression period would sit their actors in what they called ‘makeup chairs,’ where grease paint and grotesque features were applied to their faces to achieve a frightening look for the camera. Then the nation’s entertainers discovered heroin, and the makeup was no longer necessary. This is when America’s forty-sixth president, Courtney Love-Gates, rose to prominence. To paraphrase the vernacular of the time, ‘The bitch was fucking strung out, man.’ But she had that certain something, one could say…” –AH

Jewel – You Were Meant For Me (1997)
     (**)  We really didn’t have to suffer this Starbucks Do-Gooder With A Guitar long, did we? When the record company allowed the abominable-beyond-words “Hands” to headline Jewel’s second album, she took the straight and narrow path at that fork in the road, the one that arrow-shoots you right back to total obscurity. (Or, if you’re real lucky, on the way down, you get to romance Skeet Ulrich and Tobey Maguire in some Ang Lee arthouse period piece that no one goes to see.)
     But I may be speaking prematurely; I have a tendency to do that sometimes. I’ll declare a certain artist’s fifteen minutes absolutely, irreversibly over, and then she’ll come back with some TRL single called “That’s the Way It Is” that still garners prominent placement in the Muzak rotation. So another obnoxious batch of Jewelsingles™ may be just around the corner for America. (Worse – Jewelpoems™, a thought that makes me shudder.)
     All that said, I really don’t mind “You Were Meant For Me” in the intense way I used to because I’m no longer subjected to it on a regular basis. That’s the death knell for many a pop song for me, overexposure – shit, there are songs I loved in 1993 that I can just now leave on the radio again, because it took that long for me to be not sick of it anymore. You know what I’m talking about?
     Here, Jewel stands around an aquatic, sky-blue set while her moody boyfriend lurks in the corner. Occasionally, she’ll creep up behind him and run her press-on nails all over his delightfully enigmatic face while delivering a pouty look to the camera. Students of “Video Cliches” should note this clip comes from the height of the purposefully-take-the-camera-in-and-out-of-focus era of videos. –AH

Jill Sobule – I Kissed a Girl (1995)
     (***½)  This was the video I hoped most that I’d come across during Wall-to-Wall Women week, second to Garbage’s “I Think I’m Paranoid.” I had this on tape back when it came out, but something happened to the tape, it got lost or eaten or something, and I never saw my favorite mid-’90s openly bisexual, folk-singing one-hit wonder again. Until six years later, when this song is higher on my Drunken Novelty Favorites list than ever. So my thumb, almost forcefully, snapped down on the record button to re-acquire the video. Now I get to review it…
     Allow me first to explain – I remember this song and video from the end of my senior year, when I was deep into the “My So-Called Life” marathons on MTV and just finishing up my first “Year in the Life” diary. (And, I should add, beginning to experiment with music video reviews, though it’s a rare one from those sets that deserves reprinting.) Anyway, “I Kissed a Girl” was the video I always waited around to see on MTV, for a variety of reasons.
     First of all, I dug the “I Dream of Jeannie” fall wigs on the girls as they congregated in Jill’s house before their dirty, unmentionable liaison. Second of all, I dug that the husband of Jill’s feminine conquest was none other than Fabio, who returned from a day at the salt mines or wherever, took off his hard hat and allowed the off-screen fan to whip around his golden locks while he smiled and gave off his best stately-masculine look. And, third, I dug the way Jill flew back on her bed during that crazy-ass guitar solo in the middle of the song. The video was just oozing with things for me to dig.
     I watch “I Kissed a Girl” now, and it’s more a nostalgia reflex than anything. When I stumble back upon something I haven’t seen in years, I’m taken back to the internal moods and feelings I had at the time, fast as a flash. Music has the trigger-recall power to do that to me, particularly when time has lapsed. Likewise, it’s fascinating to be able to reevaluate a song or artist at different stages in your life, to see what/who holds up and what/who tastes repugnant years and months down the road. I can’t apply this logic to this Jill Sobule video (which is merely a well-made novelty and memory time capsule for me) any more than a dozen others from the same time period, but I figured I might as well drop this little theorem about the power of music into a review at some point. –AH


Salt-N-Pepa – Tramp (1986)
     (*½)  Note I didn’t refer to this as the “Lesbian Video of the Week.” That’s not what I mean to point out with this weekly feature – no, I merely wish to illuminate the out-of-date, retarded-cheesy, funny-as-fuck videos of the past and present under this very special heading. It’s all shit that has the drunken-gathering seal of approval, road tested to ensure a near-constant free-flow of unsolicited laughter.
     “Tramp” is from Hot, Cool and Vicious, SNP’s debut album, and it’s not a bad novelty rap song. (That’s about all Salt-N-Pepa was good for, though there’s a lot of their shit I actually still like.) The video, though, was not made to be seen beyond the year 1986. It is entirely of the moment and certainly doesn’t have the budget to disguise that.
     Salt and Pepa show up in a club and immediately get hit on by a dude (their producer, Herbie “Luv Bug” Azor) with his own romantic business cards, which he passes out to them. They roll their eyes, walk in and see themselves on the closed-circuit TV sets. So we get to watch what they watch, which is themselves lip synching on a talent-night looking stage. There’s also footage of ladies, including S and P, being bugged by wannabe-suave men, one of whom looks just like Alfonso Rebeiro. (Christ, I just know I spelled that wrong, and there won’t be another episode of “Your Big Break” until late night Saturday.)
     I can’t say “Tramp” is one of the worst or gayest videos ever made, but it certainly leans in both bad and gay directions. –AH


Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya and Pink -- Lady Marmalade (2001)
    (***)  Well, gitchy gitchy ya ya ya ya to you too muthafucka.  Hey, had to say it.  Even though I know Patti LaBelle is probably laughing all the way to the bank with those fat royalty payments, I still think whoever decided these girls should remake this song needs to be bitch slapped for fucking with a classic. The video redeems itself for its show of flesh (damn, Mya has an ASS on her...), camp, and all the PG-13 raunch that the TRL demographic can handle.
     The vocals are tight, albeit overpowering. Were Pink and Christina Aguilera trying to out "sista soul" Mya and Lil Kim? I subtract a few points, because with all that makeup and her fright wig, Christina Aguilera looks like some hot-ass mess. Hell, even Lil Kim looks even more classy than her in this. Oh my God, I can't believe I just said that. –LB
Lil Kim/Bride of Chucky

Before I go, I want to take the 
time to acknowledge MTV2 for tossing their rotation out the window for a week and hooking me up with some old favorites, some shit I’d never seen on the original MTV and new shit I had yet to consider. It’s like they say in the commercials for obscure channels like this: “If you don’t get M2, call your local cable operator and tell them to squeeze your nuts, buddy.” Only this time it’s actually true: your cable box will be better off with this channel. There’s always going to be some random clip or Cleo commercial that hits the spot when you’re channel surfing and, if you’re a music video connoisseur, you’ll take my word for it when I say MTV2 has made this website fun and fresh for me again. You could say it saved the site, invigorated my writing and my approach to new videos, and that’s no fucking lie. 


Copyright 2001 Andrew Hicks