REVIEWS -- JULY 2, 2001

           VIDEO OF THE WEEK

Travis – Sing
     (***½)  Travis aren’t exactly superstars yet, but it’s not for lack of playing ball with the music video medium. While you’re watching carbon-copy videos from Eve 6 and Willa Ford in the lower reaches of TRL, you could be watching this Lowbrow Nonsense Masquerading As Art from Smashing Pumpkins regulars Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.
     “Sing” starts like your average Brit band video, with black-and-white performance shots of the band and pastel shots of them riding their bikes merrily up the street. They’re headed to a dinner party, it turns out, at a mansion populated with upper-crust individuals, a spoiled, cute-looking brat with a purple boa and a precocious little monkey.
     The Travis boys are out of place in this world of high class, though the boa-wearing brat bridges the gap by tossing food across the table at them when no one’s looking. It triggers the most exotic, expensive-looking food fight you’ve ever seen on camera, starting with olives, oysters and pate and, once the matron of the house is drawn in, a hurled octopus that affixes itself to the top of one unlucky rich man’s head.
     There are also echoes of “Sesame Street” when the chef wheels out the pastry cart and is pelted with all sorts of dessert – though on “Sesame Street,” the wounded baker never busted out the icing bag and machine gunned its contents across the room like Flattop from Dick Tracy.
     Sweet video, and somehow it never descends to the realm of eye-rolling farce because, let’s face it, we’ve all seen a million-ass food fights on TV and in the movies and we’re pretty much sick of them. Leave it to Travis to reinvent the food fight. Andrew Hicks


Babyface – There She Goes
     (**)  I swear, you wouldn’t know this was Babyface if not for the identifying title card. He’s gone to great lengths to disguise his usual appearance, resorting to some Lenny Kravitz/Maxwell mini-dreads and hiding behind dark glasses at every turn. “There She Goes” doesn’t even sound like Babyface – it sounds like a Michael Jackson tune. I’m starting to think our friend The King Of Pop, Rock And Soul™ has turned down so many songs from so many contributors for his next album that the people who wrote them are just releasing the songs themselves. First came Destiny’s Child’s “Bootylicious,” now this, and still Michael Jackson is nowhere to be found. Except on Jay-Z’s jock, according to MTV News, but we’ll talk about that some other time.
     “There She Goes” is a flashy but cheap Hype Williams effort, with Babyface and his unidentified male singing partner frolicking about a fly-by-night soundstage with a few hot rented models of various ethnicities, but mostly white. This is the most booty shaking I’ve ever seen in a Babyface video, though – you think this is his official bid for inclusion on the forthcoming Monster Booty 2: Turn the Other Cheek compilation? --AH

Willa Ford f/Royce Da 5-9 – I Wanna Be Bad
     (*½)  The TRL subculture has finally spawned its own Samantha Fox in Willa Ford, who is appearance-wise an amalgam of Mandy Moore and Jessica Simpson, with the wardrobe of your average dominatrix-stripper. She prances through your typical dance-video setup, from the Destiny’s Child neon sets to the Eve street-scene car shit, flipping the finger to any John Q. Laws that might stand in her way. Like her honky ass wouldn’t just get her lawyer to bargain her speeding ticket or whatever down to a moving violation. Lord knows what Royce Da 5-9, who held his own so demented-like against Eminem in “Bad Meets Evil,” is doing vamping it up with Willa Ford here, but I want it to go away. It’s bad, and not in that sexual-rebel way it aspires to be. –AH
     (**)  Geez, with all the sex this video seems to exude, you'd think the singer of this song would choose a name that people wouldn't associate with their senile old aunt or the sanctified lady next door who told you that you were going to hell for watching "The Weakest Link" (Goodbye!). But anyway, this video is almost like watching a train wreck with mangled bodies. It's horrible, but you can't help but watch as Willa shakes her flat white ass (I'm sorry to put this stereotype out there in the open, but with her, it is very true -- but of course, I am also perpetuating the stereotype that black men like asses, even though she does have a nice rack) for the camera in a peach suede barely there outfit and dances on a stripper pole in a Nazi cap/dominatrix gear, while a rapper delivers tired prose that makes Will Smith look hardcore, all while Willa professes that "I wanna be bad." Give me a break. Of course, every fourteen year old boy will be jacking off to this video all summer, but no, I don't think I'm ready for this jelly. Not now, not ever. --Leon Bracey

The Go-Go’s – Unforgiven
     (**)  Strip all the coke-fueled Reagan-era power-pop mayhem from Belinda Carlisle and the girls and what do you have? A VH1-exclusive comeback tune that sounds like old Go-Go’s crossed with remake-era Josie and the Pussycats. “Unforgiven” isn’t a bad single, but I might be starting to get a bit cynical where bubble-gum music is concerned – my whole opinion is, the closer you are to menopause, the less you should be entitled to make it. And the Go-Go’s are getting pretty damn close. They need to study and highlight that verse from the Apostle Paul about getting older and having to put the foolishness of youth behind you, though you have to admire Belinda for agreeing to pose in Playboy and thereby reducing the age gap between Hugh Hefner and his centerfolds to two generations rather than the usual three.
     All this would be easier to swallow if the video’s concept weren’t so damn lame. While Belinda and the band (some looking better than others) lip synch the tune from a soundstage, an unidentified chick drop-kicks her way around town, letting her stunt double take out everyone and everything in sight – even a mime, for Christ’s sake – while “Batman” style fight bubbles pop up on screen. When the video finally ends, we find out all these adventures are self-contained in the official Go-Go’s pinball game. You can play too, for the cost of only fifty cents or a fat line of blow.
     QUESTION: Did the Go-Go’s drummer always look this much like Jill Sobule? --AH

Gorillaz – Clint Eastwood
Animated Gorillaz band
     (***)  This is about the coolest thing out on modern rock radio right now, despite the fact that it’s more trip-hop than anything (translation: it doesn’t exactly coexist peacefully on playlists with the likes of Staind and Limp Bizkit). It starts off with Election-style wailing then segues into airy British singing and rap vocals from an MC then back again.
     The animated video is just as compelling in just as crazy mish-mash a way, with the band members lip synching peacefully on a white backdrop. Then up pops the blue gorilla, the storm clouds cover the horizon, and the earth opens up. Then cemetery headstones and creaky gates emerge from the ground, the sky opens into a downpour and an army of cartoon gorillas crawl out of their graves.
     The gorillas are so mobilized while they’re chasing the poor-bastard singer that they have time to break into some “Thriller” moves before the frontman finally works up the courage to make like Clint Eastwood and send them all back to hell where they belong. If only the Gorillaz could do the same for Staind and Limp Bizkit. –AH
Undead gorillas

Smash Mouth f/Eddie Murphy – I’m a Believer
     (*)  Now, I loved Shrek as much as any beleaguered moviegoer assaulted with one too many lazily written studio blockbusters, but its weakest link (no, I refuse to chirp out the word “goodbye” after I type that phrase… whoops, too late) was the music choice. You can’t respect a movie that opens and closes with Smash Mouth tunes, from one that was already used as a movie theme two years ago (“All-Star”) to a slapdash remake of a Monkees song. The Monkees, for Christ’s sake!
     So that’s the origin of my hatred for this two-minute video, which does nothing to redeem itself. It’s the same montage footage from the trailer and, well, the montages in the movie itself, mixed with the pre-end credits sequence that has Eddie Murphy’s Donkey character belting out “I’m a Believer” while the three blind mice dance around and the gingerbread man pounds Lord Faarquad’s doll into the cake.
     I may seem overly cynical or stodgy here, but I think shit like this only serves to destroy a person’s memory of what was otherwise a highly entertaining (though corporately calculated) movie. Then again, I always bristle when I hear Eddie Murphy sing. People in my generation can’t really brag about having lived through any major wars or economic depressions, but we have survived “Party All the Time” and “Whazupwitu” from the golden throat of Eddie M. I think that alone qualifies us for some federal disability action. –AH

St. Lunatics – Midwest Swing
     (**½)  It’s been little more than a year since I first encountered Nelly in the MTV universe and had difficulty dealing with the fact that I was supposed to like him just because he was from St. Louis like my white suburbs-dwelling ass. I was a just-plain hater when confronted with the tacky video for “Country Grammar,” but I ended up warming up to Nelly Nell anydamnway, and I had no trouble getting into “E.I.”* or “Ride Wit’ Me.” But, as we all knew from that shot on the inside of the Nelly album, we’d soon be subjected to the man’s posse.
     So if I had trouble being objective when reviewing a video by one guy from my hometown, imagine my quandary when faced with a dozen St. Lunatics. But, I have to say, it’s a smooth transition from 2000, Da Summer of Nelly, to 2001, Da St. Lunatics Summer – because their shit sounds and looks a lot alike. The video for “Midwest Swing” even begins as a sequel to “Ride Wit’ Me,” with the same 18-wheeler pulling over and letting the Lunatics out in metro St. Louis.
     Budding entrepreneurs that they are, they’re barely off the trailer ten seconds before they’ve unveiled their contribution to the free-market economy, a “Midwest Swing” brand label that makes cereal, potato chips, even shoeshine canisters extra smoove. Though, as it would appear, their brand of Afro sheen can leave drippy stains on your family’s sofa. Where’s David Horowitz from “Fight Back” when you need him?
     The video, presented in 1.85:1 widescreen format**, is a jumbled mess of people getting down in St. Louis neighborhoods, a laundromat and the Midwest Swing unveiling ceremony. Oh, and it keeps showing the same shot of eight kids at a table eating bowls of cereal. It’s damned exciting viewing. –AH
     * = If you haven’t heard, “E.I.” is the only project in history to be directed by Steven Speilberg, the late Stanley Kubrick and Nelly. It’s currently playing in theaters everywhere.
    ** = Let no man suggest the eMpTyV homepage doesn’t keep current on DVD wannabe film buff slang.

Stone Temple Pilots – Days of the Week
     (***)  This is the most delightfully incomprehensible video the Pilots have put out since “Interstate Love Song,” stylish and goofy and so short you almost wonder if you hallucinated it afterwards. (Lord knows Scott Weiland did…) I don’t really harbor any plans to buy STP’s new album, if just because it has a gay-ass name like Shangri-La Dee Da*, but its leadoff single is power pop at its finest. The whole thing reminds me of vintage Foo Fighters, when they were just having fun with themselves and didn’t have a touch of rock star syndrome.
     Weiland plays a few different roles in this two-and-a-half minute opus. First, of course, he’s the mascara-slathered lead singer of an alternative band that’s fallen from grace. He also joins his bandmates in a carpool of salesmen and astronauts who head for destinations unknown. Director Kevin Kerslake ties all this together in a bizarre pastiche that culminates in a space-suited Weiland sharing a birthday cake with a middle-aged lady. And you can tell he’s a reformed addict because he no longer uses hypodermic needles as cake candles. –AH
     * = Advice to aspiring musicians – never, ever give your album a title you saw on a “Before and After” puzzle on “Wheel of Fortune.”

311 – You Wouldn’t Believe
     (*½)  “You Wouldn’t Believe” is like every mediocre midtempo 311 song you’ve ever heard (they can’t all be “Don’t Stay Home”), and it has a perfectly bland video to match. The guys pull up in some Army-issue SUV trucks and take their places behind their respective instruments, which are already set up for them. Someone’s got some damn efficient roadies…
     The band is lip- and play-synching in some pavilion dome on the waterfront, and it’s just as empty as… oh, your average 311 concert these days. Director Mark Kohr, whose output is normally functional if not reliable, can’t do much more than hold the cameras still, send the editing into overdrive and split the screen into twos and fours every now and then.
     Kohr saves the big guns for the video’s second half, when Shaquille O’Neill rolls up in his hydraulic-charged ride (though, sadly, not Army-issue) and whips out a little Shaq Fu™ on the sorry bastards. Shaq and the bleached-blond singer from 311 shooting hoops in the year 2001… gee, I haven’t seen a music video basketball pair-up so irrelevant and past its time since Michaels Jordan and Jackson in the “Jam” video. –AH


Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Relax (1984)
     (*½)  I think this is it, the Queen Mother of all gay videos, purely from the gay side of things, but it’s actually not as mindnumbingly bad as a lot of its mid-’80s contemporaries. Well, except for the endless scenes where throngs of sex-frenzied British girls rush the stage and mob the band, and all Frankie can do is wipe his brow in relief when security rushes them away. I think I saw him ask one of the girls if she had a brother, but that might have just been a hallucination on my part.
     The video, though primitive and confined to one performance stage, is nonetheless a high-energy effort that will probably leave you shaking your head a few times but not grabbing for the channel changer. If nothing else, you’ll probably marvel at the fact that MTV (the cable domain where an artist can’t even use the phrases “get high” or “12-gauge shottie”) actually used to play a song with the chorus, “Relax, don’t do it, when you want to come.” Maybe no one knew what the word “come” meant back then.
     “Relax” is all about sexual stamina, but once you actually see Frankie, you’ll realize the issue is less one of premature ejaculation than wondering how anyone could get it up for Frankie in the first place. I mean, he’s no Rupert Everett. –AH

Bishop -- U Know U Ghetto
     (***)  There's a whole lotta ones stacked up to make a nine You know you ghetto when you thinkin your a star when you waitin in line at the back for drinks at the bar You know you ghetto when you think your #1 with the flow And your shoutin out yourself on the radio You know you're ghetto when the Polo that you rock says Fruit of the Loom on the label and on the top nigga You know you're ghetto when your stuck inside the jail Them Jordans on your feet costin' more than your bail You know you're ghetto when your goin on a creep And your girl gotta wait for her children to fall asleep You know you're ghetto when you think you represent But them niggas on your block aint spendin a red cent And tryin to buy your album (nigga hell no!) If your dubbin this right now 'stead of buyin the single you're ghetto Ghettos what you are when you think you're a star Flossin' on the street in a rental car Ghettos what you are when you think that your nice but the opposite Don't look twice you're G to that H to that E to that T-T-O You're G to that H to that E to that T-T-O You know you're ghetto when your boys push crack And you buyin crack from them so you can go smoke out back You know you're ghetto when yo ma's parta yo crew And your grandma's only 5 years older than you You know you're ghetto when I don't know who you are But nigga I know your name cause I can read it on your chain You know you're ghetto when your singin along and you can relate to the rhymes I'm spittin in the song You know you're ghetto when your best clothes is yo dress clothes And your dress clothes is blue jeans and chine slippers na I mean? You know you're ghetto when your askin for some cigarrettes Cause you cant afford hash and that weed mixed up in yo stash You know you're ghetto when you're tryin to get your flirt on and that cop blockin niggas got the same damn shirt on You know you're ghetto when you own two cars And you need 10 for me to buy drinks at the bar Ghettos what you are when you think that your fly and the home girl walks right by Ghettos what you are when you think you got clout but your hair weave keeps fallin out You're G to that H to that E to that T-T-O You're G to that H to that E to that T-T-O You know you're ghetto when you bring home your boys And ya mommas lookin at yo crew like theyre sex toys You know you're ghetto when your brothers paid from juggling And your driving his beamer talkin bout nigga we strugglin You know you're ghetto when your sittin down in class And a cockroach crawls outta ya book bag You know you're ghetto when you try to sound like Lil Kim and you end up soundin like Foxy Oh wait a minutes thats the same thing! You know you're ghetto when rappins part of ya dream But you cant stay out past 1 because ya mom runs ya street team You know you're ghetto when your savin to buy your key But ya grandpoppas still on the street pushin that weed You know you're ghetto when you know your not Jamaican But your clothes say Tommy 'Ilfiger nigga you fakin You know you're ghetto when your like every other brother Rappin loud walkin down the street tryin to be the struggle Ghettos what you are when you think you're a star Flossin' on the street in a rental car Ghettos what you are when you think that your nice but the opposite You're G to that H to that E to that T-T-O You're G to that H to that E to that T-T-O You're ghetto!
     The video is pretty much a literal interpretation of above song, with a few errors (the words that are painted on that truck are backwards for chrissakes). This is a day in the life of some Floridian slum -- I can't tell if it is Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, etc. -- and the video is absolutely hilarious. Bishop leads a gangload of nappy-headed kids who are in the background singing the chorus. The scariest thing is that either I or some people in my family can relate to some of this stuff. But not much, thank God... --LB

Erykah Badu – Next Lifetime (1997)
     (***)  Way before Jill Scott and Macy Gray reared their carefree heads, Erykah Badu had the thinking-man’s-earth-mother thing down. She’s the only one of the three who could even pull off the Jungle Hut head wrap, and she’s the only one who would dare set a concept video over four periods of time, spanning a good 18 or so centuries.
     First comes a tranquil scene in the Motherland, 1637 (if you’ve read your history books, you know what an important year 1637 was to the Motherland), where Erykah buys a basket of fruit with a handful of shells* and gazes across the river at a dark-skinned brother she’s attracted to… just before her man (Dre of OutKast, of course) walks up with their baby. Whoops!
     Next, a scene at a black power meeting in 1968, where Erykah is dating the dark-skinned brother but wanting the light-skinned public speaker, name of Farrah-something. Their reverie is disrupted when, no kidding, a bunch of Klansmen toss bricks through the window, burn crosses on their lawn and burst in to apparently shoot the place up.
     We never find out, though, because we’re taken back to the Motherland, this time in 3037 (if you’ve read the 3050 revised edition of your history books, you know what an important year 3037 was to the Motherland) for the “ancient choosing ceremony.” Fashions in the Motherland haven’t changed much, except that everyone’s wearing glowing face makeup.
     You’re wondering which of the three Erykah choses in the ceremony? Well, it’s not Dre, and it’s not the dark-skinned brother, it’s Farrah-whoozis. If you’re Princess Erykah, your only true choice is the dude wearing the Pharoah outfit. 


Copyright 2001 Andrew Hicks