REVIEWS -- MAY 7, 2001

             VIDEO OF THE WEEK

matchbox twenty – Mad Season
     (***)  Is Rob Thomas this decade’s Huey Lewis or what? I never find his music respectable, but some of it ends up breaking through my defenses anyway. The uptempo stuff, usually, the unabashed frat-glam pop like “Bent” or “Real World” that has me singing, “I wonder what it’s like to be the head hon-CHO,” the rest of the waking day. Is that shit really so different from the booze-happy hooks Huey used to toss adult-contemporary radio’s way?
     Actually, “Mad Season,” the least obnoxious Matchbox 20 – excuse me, matchbox twenty – song I’ve yet heard, reminds me a little more of good old fashioned ’70s arena rock. It’s got a laid-back, melodic groove that’s half John Lennon, half Boston. (I guess you never thought the two would have musical offspring, but here you go.)
     And, you know what? Try as I might, I can’t find much flaw with the video, which takes the pretension down a huge notch and treads the dangerous ground of self-parody. This approach didn’t work worth a damn for the Goo Goo Dolls, but I guess things are different when you cross over into the – cue ’50s sci-fi score with ominous vocal echo – MAD SEASON!
     Thomas and his matchbox-ites descend a plane labeled “Rock Star” into an uncontrollable crowd. They’re swamped by devoted matchbox fans who, of course, don’t look quite as middle-aged and dumpy as I imagine they do in real life. Thomas, in ominous Lennon-esque sunglasses, also wears a “Rock Star” placard around his neck, and he watches from inside the limo as the rabid fans and airport security face off in a highly choreographed dance that eventually resembles West Side Story by way of “Cop Rock.”
     In the end, one of the fans grabs his little “Rock Star” neck adornment, makes off with it and leads the rest of the mob with her. I guess all they were interested in was the actual institution of rock stardom – they didn’t give a fuck about the stars themselves. If that’s not a message Huey Lewis himself could endorse right about now, I don’t know what is. –Andrew Hicks
     P.S. I feel the need to mention that what entertains me about this video, more than anything else, is the fact that it lists its director as a man named Phillip Harder. Say that out loud once or twice and tell me that’s not the homosexual pseudonym of the new millennium.


Aaliyah f/Timbaland – We Need a Resolution
     (**½)  Aaliyah’s got a lot of nerve releasing a single before Dr. Dolittle 2 is even out. She has to be stepping on some toes there – I’m betting before June even rolls up, some pigeon only Eddie Murphy can communicate with will take a big, White Out-looking crap on Aaliyah’s tight, bare stomach. Of course, I’m not willing to lay down money on this bet, but you know what I’m getting at here. (Comedic exaggeration, people – go with it, and we’ll all have a much better time.)
     I used to dig the Aaliyah/Timbaland collaborations, starting with “If Your Girl Only Knew.” This one, though, could use a fresh injection of something – the beat and Timbaland banter aren’t half bad, but the verses and chorus sound too close to those of “Are You That Somebody.” Even the lyrics are dangerously similar: when she sings, “Am I supposed to change / Are you supposed to change,” it sounds almost exactly like the “I really need somebody / Tell me are you that somebody” hook of years past.
     The video, from director Paul Hunter, can’t get a coherent visual landscape going either. It spends half its time in the TLC-metallic world of excessive facial makeup and computer-animated silver architecture and half its time in the Destiny’s Child “Survivor” world of fatigue bikinis, with an enormous snake slithering around Aaliyah’s glistening body.
     Can you imagine the episode of “Crocodile Hunter” this would make? “I’m on the trail of the aaliyah abdominous cobra, which thrives in Africa and is attracted only to the sloppy seconds of one R. Kelly... Ah, there she is. She’s a beaut. Watch how she reacts when I poke her with this jagged, splintery stick.” –AH

Destiny’s Child f/Da Brat – Survivor (remix)
Destiny's Child f/Da Brat - Survivor (remix)
     (**)  “Beyonce, where you at?” asks Da Brat at the beginning of the video. Why, slinking across the beach in a clingy two-piece, of course, fueling the sexual fantasies of twenty million teenage boys and a few hundred thousand teenage girls who are going through that, uh, tender experimentation period.
Destiny's Child f/Da Brat - Survivor (remix)
     Okay, I’ll admit, I didn’t want to go near the original “Survivor” video with a ten-foot pole. I’m damn near burned out on reviewing Destiny’s Child videos, because first I took the stance that they were just another rip-off girl group who’d be gone in three singles’ time, and later I realized every girl group since the Ronettes has ripped off some other girl group or six and that, right now, Destiny’s Child was at the top of the stack. And, while their stuff isn’t overly good or anything, it’s not exactly odious either. So any video of theirs I review, pretty much, will end up in the ** to **½ range, which is the most ambiguous type of shit for me to review because I have to take that, “I don’t really like it, but it’s not really bad enough to go off on either,” stance.
Destiny's Child f/Da Brat - Survivor (remix)
     I was grateful, then, when my friend and colleague Leon Bracey took “Survivor” off my hands and made it his Ghetto Video of the Week upon its release. But when I stumbled upon this so-called remix just now, I had to go ahead and write a little something about it. The deal is, this is no remix – it’s the original backing track with Da Brat intruding every minute or two for another flava-crystal burst of flow. This song and video exist only to push the soundtrack to the made-for-MTV “hip-hopera” Carmen.
Destiny's Child f/Da Brat - Survivor (remix)
     Thankfully, there are no clips from said hip-hopera, just a bunch more footage of Beyonce and this week’s group mates dancing in fatigues and bikinis. Showing off those killer abs and shit. (The past three years of music video have really been strong ones for midriff aficionados like myself. Shit, this week has been strong for girl-ab videos.) Da Brat, who spends most of her time either rapping from her VietCong-esque perch in the trees or showing off her blonde, Macy Gray fright wig, gets into it – she even dons an Army-issue gas mask at one point – but naturally, the eye-roll factor is in effect for the full duration of the video, and no Jermaine Dupri protégé can hope to change that. –AH

Dream – This is Me
Dream - This is Me
     (*½)  Now we go from the derivative music of Destiny’s Child to a girl group that derives its sound from Destiny’s Child, watering down the cyclical patterns of pop that much more. But you’d be totally wrong to listen to this song – “This is Me” is the kind of video you’re better off watching with the sound off and some better song playing. Hell, if you’re lucky, the random combo may make like Pink Floyd and The Wizard of Oz and match up in some strange way.
Dream - This is Me
     The strobe-happy visuals and wind fans of “This is Me” are ho-hum, and the opening set is lifted straight from the Destiny’s Child universe, but the girls are damn hot. All four of them, and director Marcus Raboy captures them in an array of revealing outfits, one of which appears to be a pair of cargo pants buttoned open to reveal a see-through thong. We don’t actually see anything pornographic, of course, but it’s enough to keep my thumb off the channel up/channel down button on the remote control in the meantime.
     Our culture’s fucking falling apart, and occasionally I find myself loving every minute of it. Is that wrong? –AH

Ja Rule f/Lil’ Mo – I Cry
a Rule f/Lil' Mo - I Cry
     (***)  This is the first song from Ja Rule that I’ve really been able to get behind. What can I say? I have a soft spot for emotion- and remorse-heavy rap ballads, and while 2Pac was obviously the king of those (blast “So Many Tears” through a pair of good headphones and tell me you don’t feel every word that man was saying), there’s always room for one more. I hear DMX does some of that shit, too, but they never release it as singles, and his singles never send me scrambling for their source albums, so I remain unenlightened in that respect.
     Back to Ja Rule, though… I still can’t get over the fact that he looks just like this guy Dauffus from first-hour honors English my senior year, though Big D never fancied the tie-off handkerchief look. (I’m starting to think said look can only be pulled off in actual rap videos, because it never seems to work in real life, at least not in the real life that I know.) Ja here is joined by Lil’ Mo, a gospel-type soul singer who happens to be wearing an entire tube of lip gloss.
a Rule f/Lil' Mo - I Cry
     Most of “I Cry” takes place in a cornflower blue-tinted cemetery, where Mo wails and Ja raps over an open grave. There are also flashbacks to the naïve, idealistic days of Ja’s baller youth, before – as the song’s red-tinted interlude informs us – one of the homies was taken down in a nightclub. As the video reopens, Ja is at the grave site, praying to his boy amidst heavy rain and declaring that he’s made peace with his own impending death. And Ja heads out for vengeance, which is hard to depict in the current gun-blurred era of MTV.
     The ending’s open to interpretation, since it goes quick and (through red tint again) someone else slips into the proverbial dirt nap after an interlude in a nightclub, but I can’t tell if the victim is Ja. All I know is, at the end, another living homie – face obscured – tosses his jewelry in the person’s open grave and declares vengeance for this latest murder. And you get to realize this ghetto cycle will never end, that every damn soul will be crying before too long.
a Rule f/Lil' Mo - I Cry
     The chorus, which is fairly simple* and (I’m 99% sure) regurgitated, nonetheless has a simple emotional weight to it, and Ja’s subdued raps almost directly invoke the soul of the late Mr. Shakur, filtered through a slightly harsher delivery style. I never took this guy seriously before, but as he raps, “I wish death was pleasure,” it made me stop and think about the state of life and death, of loss and the afterlife. I mean, that’s a simple kind of profound, but it got me going nonetheless. –AH
     * = Try these confusing first-, second- and third-person lyrics on for size: “Oooh, you cried / Then I cried / And we cry / When he cries / I cry together, together.”

Poe f/Mark Danielewski – Hey Pretty
     (***)  All I know about Poe is, she proved herself truly cool and smart on “Loveline” and hit my guilty-pleasure buttons with her breakthrough hit “Angry Johnny.” Four years later, she’s back on MTV with a clip that’s half soft-porn, half “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen.”
     Mark Danielewski, whoever he is (the Cinemax-porn version of Henry Rollins is my guess), subjects us to his spoken-word encounter of a car tryst with some dirty, dirty girl he met. (“It was the longest unzipping of my life,” he declares pseudo-somberly.) My guess is, that dirty girl is Poe, who is pretty much relegated to chorus and bridge duties here. To make up for her lack of song time, she grabs for every second of screen time she can get. And she gets it from me.
     The opening shot of the video has Poe’s muddy hands trailing across her bare stomach, a pink-and-purple bikini top sheathing dem perky boobies. And “Hey Pretty” only gets more nasty and PG13-kinky from there, with a bonafide mud wrestling sequence, a Poe strip tease and some sudsy, hands-on car washing.
     Director Matthew Rolston has definitely turned out his share of edgeless, corporate pop videos, but occasionally his horny little camera captures something of interest, and this is one of those times. –AH

The Soggy Bottom Boys – Man of Constant Sorrow
     (**½)  It’s a cool song, this bluegrass-pop number from O Brother, Where Art Thou? that becomes the Soggy Bottom Boys’ creative and literal redemption, so it’s kind of cool to see it pop up in MTV2’s rotation as a music video. (For the curious, the “video” combines film clips with the two lip-synch performances of the song from the movie.)
     Still, I can’t help thinking it would have been cooler to actually make a video with the musicians who recorded the song, rather than just watch George Clooney lip synch the vocals a second and third time. Yeah, I realize “The Soggy Bottom Boys” are probably just a bunch of faceless session players and not an actual band, but I’d like to mentally attach this song to some performers and not a group of actors portraying fictional characters. If that makes sense. –AH

Sum 41 – FAT LIP
     (**)  Okay, Sum 41… another little punk rap band cleaned up for the TRL trading card set, and you have to wonder if the “41” in the band name stands for the sum of its collective members’ ages or what. “Heavy metal and mullets were how we were raised / Priest and Maiden were the gods we praised,” they claim, but it’s obvious these guys also wore holes in their copies of the Beasties’ Licensed to Ill.
     And Sum 41 is determined to show they’re the baddest lil’ bastards on the block – look how crazy they are, shaving girls’ heads*, freestyling for an unappreciative convenience store clerk in the video’s intro (and its best sequence, by the way, its only real instance of flow or inspiration – they probably copped the verse wholesale from some old-school artist I’m unfamiliar with) and doing the ooga-booga dance in front of a couple killjoy cops.
     I think Sum 41’s entire calculated act is summed up in their line, “It’s attention that we crave / Don’t tell us to behave.” Fuck, I suppose next you’re going to tell us that everything we say to you takes you one step closer to the edge, and you’re about to break. Whatever, man, make me my Egg McMuffin and let me get on with my day. –AH
     * = Maybe it’s the conformist side of me, but I’m usually attracted to girls who have more than a Krishna wisp of hair atop their noggins.

The Rolling Stones – Sympathy For the Devil (1969)
     (**)  This freakishly long performance video from the Rock and Roll Circus project starts off fairly boring but culminates in a total clothes-stripping frenzy from Mick Jagger, who looks more androgynous than ever in that red turtleneck and that damn shade of lipstick my Aunt Shirley always wears.
     This is the kind of senseless, fucked-up performance, especially around the twelve-minute mark, that would lead the Hells Bells people to declare Jagger officially demon-possessed. If the devil were a drunken British fop with an embarrassing lack of stage presence, anyway.
     I love old Stones music, yeah, but no one should have to put up with this kind of gaudy shit. –AH

Sade – Cherish the Day (1993)
     (***½)  I just reviewed a Sade video a couple weeks ago, so I won’t go back through my spiel about how I truly, madly, deeply love this woman even more the older she gets, and how she can make like Melissa Etheridge and come to my window whenever the hell she wants with that golden throat of hers. Right, I’m not going back through that spiel…
     The best Sade videos divorce themselves from their cultural context – if you’ve seen any of her really ’80s-looking shit, you know what I’m talking about – and put the dream-like and trippy at a premium. It’s music to bob your head and slow-fuck to. “Cherish the Day,” one of the very few adult-contemporary Pillow Talk songs that I believe achieves true greatness, has a luxurious black-and-white video to match, with Sade in a flowing, two-piece outfit, idly strumming her rhythm guitar atop a skyscraper. We also get cityscape footage and mesmerizing motion shots of nature and man-made shit, and the visual cuts all have the perfect lazy but urgent timing.
     And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that the director brings the camera over, up and around Sade’s bountiful ass more than once, which makes for a few of the most expensive sweeping butt shots in music video history.* I can just picture the director: “Okay, we’re setting up a crane shot over here, Sade, but don’t turn around – just keep looking off in the other direction. This’ll just take a second, honey. Heh heh heh…” –AH
     * = I also think I spy a theme week coming on because, as we all know, Andrew Brakes For Monster Booty.


Copyright 2001 Andrew Hicks