VIDEO OF THE WEEK

Nelly Furtado -- Turn Off the Light
Nelly Furtado -- Turn Off the Light
    (***)  I was going to review this a month ago, before I got locked out of my website, so forgive me for picking a Video of the Week that’s actually from a different month. I could have been really late and picked something from Technotronic. “Turn Off the Light,” even though it’s already kind of old, was long-overdue when it came out. We’d been living off of Furtado’s first single, “I’m Like a Bird,” since the end of last year. I liked it then, but it’s since gotten terribly tiresome and does little to approximate what’s on the rest of Furtado’s album.
Nelly Furtado -- Turn Off the Light
     But this follow-up, from sometime Bjork director Sophie Muller, is just the shit to change that. It opens in a swamp, where Furtado’s posse rises up from the mud and dry ice and writhe around for a bit. The DJ, whose muddy-ass equipment actually seems to work, finally draws the clean Furtado into the muck, where she undergoes the filth equivalent of a wet T-shirt contest. And I don’t complain.
Nelly Furtado -- Turn Off the Light
     The scene switches abruptly to an ethnic street-fair type of scene, where Furtado, in some lime-green, painted-on jeans, gets down. Then it’s on to some Madonna-looking indoor scene with paisley wallpaper and strange-ass backup dancers in bell-shaped dresses. “Turn Off the Light” cuts back and forth between the three sets, and you come out of it still not knowing exactly what Furtado is all about. Which, of course, is the fascinating ambiguity she is all about. Andrew Hicks
Nelly Furtado -- Turn Off the Light


Afroman - Because I Got High
     (**)  This is another one that isn’t exactly spankin’ new. I was gonna review it awhile ago, but then I got high. I was gonna decide whether I liked it or not, but then I got high. Now I’ve been sitting on this video for weeks, and I know why… Okay, I’ll drop my transparent, uninspired take-off on Afroman’s lyrics. The truth is, I was gonna come up with something more clever, but then I got high. Then I got high again. Then I got super-duper, turbo-baked high.
     Okay, so I’m sure you’ve heard this song - it’s about as pervasive as any pop song you can’t take seriously. Somehow it can play on the Hot Five At 9 pop shows, the urban stations and the soundtrack to the latest Kevin Smith movie all at once. Afroman is one lucky bastard indeed, so lucky he even gets away with violating one of MTV’s biggest rules. He refers to weed and doesn’t get censored in the process*, I guess because the song ends with the protagonist becoming a homeless paraplegic. It’s actually an anti-drug song, you see, even though you couldn’t possibly enjoy it while sober. If Afroman had any idea what irony was, he’d be pleased.
     Anyway, the video was made on a shoestring budget and features Jay and Silent Bob, who do little more than stand in front of their usual convenience store and bob their heads. Meanwhile, Afroman drives around the neighborhood in his ice cream truck, which sports an enormous cone with an afro spilling out the top. There are a couple booty girls and a few little kids with ’fros, and Afroman seems to be in a constant state of intoxication, but like the song itself, the video could be so much more. Both are sort of amusing the first time around -AH
     * = They do cut out the word “joint” or “blunt” or whatever Afroman says at the beginning. It’s okay to say you get high, but MTV doesn’t want anyone to know how you achieve said mind-state. That way, impressionable kids might think you’re actually high on life, which also is known to kill productivity. It’s true.

Ben Folds - Rockin’ the Suburbs
     (**½)  It’s only appropriate that Ben Folds got Weird Al Yankovic to direct his first solo video after the breakup of Ben’s band. (I don’t remember - was it actually a breakup, or did Ben just fire the other guys?) Ben’s goofier than ever these days, coming hard with this tongue-in-cheek ode to the angst of the pissed-off white male. And it only takes until three minutes into the video for him to ape Fred Durst and Korn.
     The video opens with a pan around a living room right out of Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So,” with multiple Bens playing all the instruments. Then Weird Al switches to shots of Ben on plain backgrounds, mugging to the camera and fighting with more clones of himself.
     Some of it is funny, like the passing shot at the Supergrass video from last year and Ben screaming from underwater, “You better watch out, ’cause I’m gonna say ‘fuck’.” Which of course is censored, along with a few other words from the song. Some of it’s just embarrassing, though, and you can’t blame all of the video’s sub-clever gags on the fact that Ben and Al are parodying MTV’s frequent idiocy. -AH

R. Kelly - Feelin’ on Yo Booty
     (*½)  It’s almost like the record company conducted some focus-group market research or something and decided R. Kelly should make his image way, way more ghetto. The “I Believe I Can Fly” days are over - you’ll never see R. frolicking with cartoon bunnies and gospel choirs again. Instead, you’ll see him sipping Cristal while his hair (pronounced “hurr” in my neck of the woods) is perpetually half-braided. One side’s in cornrows, the other side’s an afro. He was gonna finish the job, but then he got high, I guess.
     Anyway, this shit can’t be too ghetto because it’s directed by Billie Woodruff, queen of the Braxton videos. Most of “Feelin’ on Yo Booty” takes place at a generic party, where lights shine, disco balls churn and Kelly ends up in the freak ring with a big-breasted hottie. There are also shots of R. in his bathtub at home, with a chick on his left and a chick on his right. (That’s one for the afro and one for the cornrows.) And, it’s worth noting, while there are lots of booty shots in the video, you never actually see R. feelin’ on anybody booty. -AH

Macy Gray - Sweet Baby
     (**)  I’ve decided I like Macy Gray best when she’s not trying to be taken seriously. You know she’s that party chick who shows up for everything stoned out of her head, so you forgive her playful rock and funk-type songs and dismiss her pre-calculated pop ballads. And you just pray you won’t have to hear them every twenty times a week on the Muzak at work for a year straight, like “I Try.” And I’m thinking “Sweet Baby” will be on the Muzak by the end of the week, so just reviewing the video is making me wince.
     This David Meyers video can’t decide what it wants to be, either. It goes to great lengths to establish that Macy and her man have been together since childhood, showing their young counterparts playing in a park and gingerly kissing each other on the mouth. Then we see the grown-up Macy singing on a sidewalk for change, as her man-slash-sidekick strums along on the guitar. A jaded honkey businessman tosses a quarter in the guitar case and we cut to a party, where Macy walks in on the man-sidekick kickin’ it with some other woman. While their baby looks on, no less.
     Do they reconcile? Of course they do. There’s nothing subversive or unpredictable about this shit. They cuddle on the damn beach at the end. Macy, the drug queen herself, is making me feel like I took the brown acid at Woodstock. -AH

Krayzie Bone f/Sade - Hard Time Hustlin’
     (**½)  It’s a little known fact about Krayzie Bone that “Is It a Crime” always makes him burst into tears, and it’s a little known fact about Sade that “First of Tha Month” always makes her back that sweet azz up. So why not a team-up between the two for a little of that morose, DMX-type hip-hop about poverty and the rising jobless rate? Yeah, “Hard Time Hustlin’” is one of those songs that has George W. Bush practically begging to raise that tax-cut rate to $400 a whack.
     The video, from director Cam Casey, is a subdued affair decked out in nighttime-blue and daytime-sepia tones, with the camera roaming around Krayzie Bone (young and grown-up versions) and his hood while Mama frowns and shakes her head and the bill collector comes around to bang on the front door. And, yeah, there are a couple of street-hustlin’ and running-from-the-popo scenes.
     Sade keeps out of the affair mostly - her head pops up in superimposed black-and-white footage during the choruses, giving her that ethereal quality we’ve come to expect. She’s still the most obvious candidate for a star who’s perpetually in the music video world but not of it, if you know what I mean, and it’s her elegance that saves this from being just another dime a dozen street tale. “Hard Time Hustlin’” is at least worth a quarter a dozen. -AH

P.O.D. - Alive 
     (**)  There’s something not quite right about a bunch of tattooed growl rockers singing such functional lyric phrases as, “I trust in love,” “you give me peace of mind” and “sunshine on my face.” Then again, P.O.D. (Payable on Death - their record industry-hocked souls, that is) is basically a Christian act that has decided to mute the Jesus talk in favor of ambiguous, positive lyrics that’ll fly on TRL.
     And, as video director Francis Lawrence no doubt realizes, there’s no better way to spice up some Christian Crossover than by showing a shitload of car crashes and skateboarders. The band performs from an abandoned highway with intersecting overpasses while Lawrence cuts in footage of surfers shooting the curl and, yeah, a gruesome auto wreck or three. What that has to do with the sunshine on the lead singer’s face is anybody’s guess.
     Hey, God, you gonna give these guys a little more talent or what? -AH
Surfer dude

R.E.M. - All the Way to Reno (You’re Gonna Be a Star)
     (***)  Holy Christ, it’s R.E.M., and they look like they’re actually having fun. I haven’t seen Michael Stipe this whimsical since he was fruiting it up in the video for “Shiny Happy People.” I guess it took the liberating likes of Michael Moore (the corporation-bashing pundit, author and director of two of the best Rage Against the Machine videos of all time) to bring the bald-headed bisexual out of his shell.
     And to drop him smack in the middle of some high school so dysfunctional it has a huge security fence and a principal patrolling with a megaphone. Which Stipe promptly snags to sing the song’s chorus. He also jacks the school’s PA system at one point and starts a cafeteria-wide food fight. All this, of course, is his screen test for the lead in Ten More Things I Hate About You. I can’t wait to see him make out with that kid from “Third Rock From the Sun.”
     “All the Way to Reno,” while not as political as your average Michael Moore effort, is a lot of fun to watch. I have no idea if he pulled the same shit he did with Rage at the Stock Exchange, showing up announced and permit-less to wreak havoc, but the reactions of the kids in the video look genuine. And, more importantly, the kids themselves look genuine. This isn’t the buff-and-polished shit we’re used to in the TRL world, and for that I’m grateful. –AH


Miami Sound Machine - Conga (1985)
     (*½)  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there was a time when Gloria Estefan tried to dress up like Prince. Sequined white power suit, blue slacks (and they’re not pants - the only word for them is “slacks”) and a mane of hair exploding from an ill-placed headband. Okay, she doesn’t so much look like Prince as Prince protégé and Latin percussionist Sheila E. But I know there’s a carbon copy of that outfit somewhere in the Purple One’s wardrobe closet. He might only trot it out when all the Paisley Park cleaning ladies have gone home for the day, but he owns it.
     Anyway, this was Gloria’s breakout hit, and the world must have known they were in for some shit right off the bat. This is a dance easier to do than the Macarena, and it even allows for drunken revelers to cop a feel or two. Gloria and Miami Sound Machine are playing for a private party - all we know is, the head table has a banner that reads “Ambassador,” so I guess Miss Estefan is on 24-hour call to the U.N.
     There are carnival lights galore, cascading in bizarre neon patterns, and as soon as Gloria sings, “Everybody gather round now,” all the people in the audience step up calmly to crowd the stage. Some of them are even so out of control they find themselves clapping along to the beat. These are some lucky fucking yuppies, as you can imagine. -AH


Garbage - Milk (1997)
     (***)  God bless her, Shirley Manson makes such an appealing music video freak. I love to watch her stomp around and sneer yet pull off that playful, come-hither look, and even though this is one of Garbage’s lesser videos, it’s still entrancing. With or without Shirley, but mostly with. Director Stephane Sednaoui sets up a smoky universe where bright lights slowly rotate, police cruiser-style, and Shirley’s hair whips around in the man-made breeze.
     The other guys in Garbage, the producers, just stand around in the background trying to look like they think someone out there actually knows their names and doesn’t just think of them as The Dorks Who Hang With Shirley And One Of ’Em’s Named Butch (Snicker Snicker).
     Aesthetically, I have no complaints about this video. It’s all style and mood and very little substance, and that works sometimes. When you want to - pardon the expression - veg out and just lose yourself in a flashy video, it’s good to have something like this sitting around. -AH

Bart Simpson - Do the Bartman (1990)
     (**½)  Okay, so The Simpsons Sing The Blues was one of the worst commercial tie-ins ever appropriated for what might be the greatest half-hour comedy of all time, but this little video - long since out of circulation - isn’t half bad.
     Just ignore the fact that this is a grown white woman impersonating a ten-year-old white kid trying to rap and watch the frustrated looks on all the authority figures’ faces. Watch Martin and Milhouse (before his hair was even blue) dance along behind Bart. Watch the animated “posse” with the clocks around their necks. Watch the Egyptians walk like Egyptians. Oh, and let’s not forget the guitar solo right out of Prince’s “Batdance.”
     Okay, a lot of this is cheesy and dated, and I’m sure it was out of touch at the time, too - why else would the ten-year-old girl-rappin’ white kid claim, “If you can do the Bart, you’re bad like Michael Jackson”? But “Do the Bartman” gets better as it goes and eventually includes the entire “Simpsons” universe as it existed at the time. It’s an interesting little bit of cultural history. -AH


Copyright 2001 Andrew Hicks