Coldplay - Trouble
     (***1/2)  This is the four-minute clip for all those people who, a) like “Yellow,” b) got completely fucking sick of “Yellow,” and, c) wondered what else Coldplay was going to release from Parachutes that might possibly cause them to get off their ass and buy the album. Because the buzz among their friends who bought it was, “Don’t bother.”
     Months later, here’s “Trouble,” which is actually anything but -- it’s the safest thing the record company could have released as a follow-up. Same tempo, same key, same DMB-meets-Bends-era-Radiohead sound as “Yellow,” and on top of it all that, it’s actually a good song.
     What’s more, “Trouble” is a better video -- it actually lends itself to repeated viewings, unlike the uber-meandering one-take clip for “Yellow,” which you could fast forward through in SLP mode and still consider a slow mover. (Not that it wasn’t a good video the first few times around.) “Trouble” meanders, too, but director Jim Hope turns on the trippy CGI visuals from minute one.
     The translucent, somber band members roll through the forest on a wagon while the world scrolls by behind them. There’s a mini-tornado, there’s a rainbow path, there’s some mountains, and the whole thing holds your attention without ever seeming New Age-cheesy. Still, if you’re Shirley MacLaine and you happen to be embarking on one of those madcap sheet-of-LSD weekends, there are far worse videos you can trip to. Andrew Hicks


All-Star Tribute - What’s Goin’ On
     (***)  I had to mock it at first, when I heard a smiley-face MTV News propaganda report with Bono trumpeting this modern-day charity-pop benefit for AIDS. (I don’t mean a pro-AIDS benefit, mind you, but one that would fight the insidious virus.) They were going to cram the Backstreet Boys, ’N Sync, Christina Aguilera, five or six rappers and Fred Durst into one aggregate bile heap that would have Marvin Gaye rolling over in his grave. And raise a few bucks for AIDS research in the process.
     Then September 11th happened and, in a day, a song I probably would have received cynically took on new meaning. The lyrics of “What’s Goin’ On” have always seemed timely, and it’s one of those songs you don’t really want to have reinterpreted by boy bands, Ja Rule and Michael Stipe, but in the past month, unity and sentimentality have gone up in value like Franklin Mint collector’s plates.
     And, even though you want to grit your teeth at the pop-music wheel of fortune that rolls through this video’s four minutes, you have to stop and realize that this bizarre amalgam of artists stands united, just like the rest of us. You’ll never see Nelly Furtado, Eve and Aaron Lewis together again, and you shouldn’t rightfully expect to. They’re artists of wildly varying orientations and priorities, but in this aspect, they’re one.
     Even though it wasn’t the terrorist attacks that brought these people together, the altruistic motives have transcended the context. And the video, a slapped-together collection of ego-free studio footage and MTV News clips of the aftermath and rescue efforts in New York, is a low-key but sometimes haunting companion to the song. Which, yeah, has its weak links, but these days it’s only too appropriate to give the benefit of the doubt to any show of heartfelt emotion or effort toward togetherness. Even if P. Diddy is involved. --AH

DMX - We Right Here
     (**)  I have nothing against DMX personally. He’s got talent in there somewhere, and I like that he lays his emotions bare on his albums, but as I’ve said before, that’s not the product they give me to review. DMX videos, and the songs that accompany them, never seem to hook me.
     “We Right Here” is a simplistic ghetto anthem whose chorus seems a little familiar since P. Diddy’s last, still-pervasive single. DMX chants, “We ain’t goin’ anywhere,” while P. Diddy’s been chanting for months, “We ain’t goin’ nowhere.” And, while DMX’s appropriation is a tad more correct grammatically, it’s still just an appropriation.
     The video, then? A slice of generic street hip-hop -- by that, I mean he spends the entire video literally performing from the streets. In some shots, director J. Jesses Smith shows him rapping for a crowd; sometimes, DMX is by himself. Sometimes the motorcycle and four-wheel gang does stunts; sometimes DMX is just grabbing his crotch with a bored look. (On his face, I mean, not the crotch.) Guess you can’t expect a beaming grin from any artist who titles his new album The Great Depression. --AH

Fabolous f/Nate Dogg - Can’t Deny It
      (**1/2)  It’s a happy coincidence that “Can’t Deny It” is awash in American flag imagery... or is it? Could Nate Dogg, in his ever-desperate quest for someone to team up with, have once aligned himself with the dark forces of terrorism? I can imagine him and Osama bin Laden getting drunk in a karaoke bar and tearing up a duet on “Regulate” and doing just a good enough job of it to have a gin-breath bin Laden draw him close and whisper, “You’re alright, American scum. Let me tell you a little something about what’s coming this fall.” Then Nate sobered up, went running and told Fabolous he’d damn well better stick some American flags in the video because, well, he couldn’t tell you why because you’d never believe it.
     That foolish diatribe delivered, I have to say there’s not much original about “Can’t Deny It” aside from the integration of the stars and stripes into the usual hip-hop bling bling. (And, yes, girl watchers, that includes an American flag bikini.) The song even cops its chorus from Nate’s ex-Death Row labelmate, 2Pac. But even that copped “Ambitions Az a Ridah” chorus has new resonance in the post-September 11th world. You can just about picture George W. Bush addressing the terrorists on CNN with the haunting vow, “I’m a straight rider, you don’t wanna fuck with me.” It would send approval ratings soaring, I think. --AH

’N Sync - Gone
     (**1/2)  Justin Timberlake has only been introduced to Michael Jackson once or twice, and already he’s back to wearing wife beaters again. For the first time since 1998, when we thought ’N Sync would be over by the time Star Wars: Episode One came out. Well, sorry Jacko (the closer to Halloween we get, the more I like calling you “Jacko”), he might be back in the wife-beater, showing off those pecs, but Justin’s not as button-cute as he was back then.
     In fact, Justin looks positively somber and grown up in “Gone,” and he’s backed up by a sophisticated love interest and some flattering, fashionable black-and-white photography from director Herb Ritts. (Herb, late of “Vogue” and other cliche-classics, doesn’t work in videos much anymore -- just when you toss about 250,000 boy-band dollars at him.)
     It’s the other guys in the group who look out of place in the video -- their overall lack of personality has thrust Timberlake, the only truly distinctive one of the bunch, even if you just know him as “the pansy-assed bastard who gets to bang Britney,” into the default front-man position, which he fills with relish. He knows he’s the only one who gets to make out with the rented models when they shoot a video.
     “Gone,” the song itself, is far better than all the ’N Sync ballads that came before it. In fact, all of the preceding, from “This I Promise You” to “God Must Have Spent a Little More Time On You” to “Music of My Heart,” were unabashed elephant shit. This one’s actually pretty good, with some soulful melodies and vocals you’d be hard-pressed to resist and in fact tempted to respect if you didn’t know they were laid down by... these guys. --AH

Nickelback - How You Remind Me
     (**)  I’m not going to lie to you -- I hang out in karaoke bars once or twice a week, getting a buzz on, soaking in the naked, often shameful Americana and waiting for my turn to bust out some Alanis or Kurt Cobain or Meat Loaf or Destiny’s Child or whoever I can do an amusingly convincing impressional approximation of. And, in my own twisted way, I’m an entertainer up there, and so are a few other kindred spirits who don’t take seriously the high art of drunken fucking karaoke.
     But for every one of us, in my white suburban ZIP code, there are three others who like to drink a pitcher or two and sing songs like “How You Remind Me,” post-alternative adult album rock dreck. There’s one guy I’ve seen sing “Hemorrhage (In My Hand)” a couple dozen times. So, as little as I normally like to review videos from this Matchbox/Third Eye Blind/Tantric little genre, I enjoy the task even less when I realize I’ll have to hear tone-deaf, half-drunk mofos take in on twenty or thirty times with karaoke mics in hand.
     I mean, yeah, Nickelback’s pretty tone deaf and half-drunk in their own right, but at least with the video, we have some visual distractions, like the fine-ass brunette who sulks through the soundstage and the lead singer’s spectacularly coifed Michael Bolton Just Out Of The Shower lion’s mane. --AH

Sum 41 - In Too Deep
     (*1/2)  “Maybe we’re just trying too hard,” sings the baby-faced lead Sum 41 front man, and it’s hard to think anything but, Those three chords constitute sweaty-browed effort of an extensive variety? Myself, I’d be hard-pressed to break a sweat -- and you can ask anyone who’s ever so much as played a game of mini-golf with me on an 85% humidity July night in Missouri; they’ll tell you I’m a sweater... a through-the-shirt sweater -- while writing a song with riffs stolen straight from my last song.
     “In Too Deep,” Single #2 from Whatever The Hell Their Lameass Album’s Called, is awash in amateurish lyrics and chords that would make the members of Blink 182 think of themselves as modern-day incarnations of The Almighty Amadeus. In other words, this is wack, TRL material that was manufactured and shipped out like a double-wide.
     The video takes place at a swim meet, where we alternate between shots of Sum 41 entertaining a massive crowd from the subterranean reaches of the emptied-out pool and shots of divers careening off platforms and earning high ratings from judges and flirtatious looks from poolside hotties. Or, in one case, a cheeky gay attendee.
     And these guys would release this video after the end of pool season, when leaves are starting to collect in filters and everyone’s dragging out their sweaters and long drawls. Way to be relevant, Sum 41... Okay, I’m done now. My goal was to get the band members’ parents, who claim to be Sum 41’s biggest fans, to write me abusive e-mails. And I just got the first one in my inbox, with the subject line, “Sum 41 rox my 52 year old world!!!!” --AH

Weezer - Island in the Sun
     (***)  It’s giving me a hell of a case of deja vu to see Weezer back around with a self-titled album and a batch of strong videos, the best of which is directed by Spike Jonze. It makes me want to ride the school bus or something. “Island in the Sun” is far removed from the pop culture mecca of “Buddy Holly,” but it has the same casual, self-conscious vibe that made that particular breakthrough video so watchable even after MTV’s heavy rotation blitzkrieg.
     “Island in the Sun,” which lasts all of three minutes, features Rivers Cuomo and the boys on a savannah-type plain somewhere, napping and frolicking with wild animals. There are lions and tigers and bears -- holy living fuck! (I just have to paraphrase The Wizard of Oz in gratuitous R-rated fashion every now and then.) Luckily, most of the animals in question are just cubs, so they don’t mind napping and frolicking with the venerable college geek rockers.
     Jonze, who maintains a pretty low profile in the music-video world these days, lends the proceedings just the right amount of restraint. The camera shots are more dreamy than frantic, and the band members always have goofy smiles affixed to their faces. When you watch the video, you probably will, too. --AH


Busta Rhymes f/Zhane - It’s a Party (1996)
     (**)  Remember Zhane? They were all over urban radio for like half a minute during my senior year. And their sound wasn’t bad. It’s just, when you think about someone to pair off Busta Rhymes with, you think someone a little less pop. (Like, say, Shanice.) I mean, that tune Busta did with Janet wasn’t exactly Grammy material... oh shit, it was, wasn’t it? I forgot...
     Anyway, “It’s a Party” was the immediate follow-up to Busta’s breakthrough hit, “Woo Hah!! (Got You All in Check),” and was an immediate mistake. Too poppy, too wannabe, too... indistinct. Not the impression you want to make when you just established an artist as someone with an original image and flow. This time, though, there are some color-rich motifs, with Busta in a variety of bizarre fashions (one of which virtually redoes his appearance in A Tribe Called Quest’s “Oh My God” video), but nothing is particularly inspired. It’s like director Marcus Raboy just decided to plug in a few hip-hop cliches when he was done trying to be Hype Williams. --AH

Wu-Tang Clan - Triumph (1997)
     (***)  Their epic, from that bloated second album. Killer bees are on the loose, Irwin Allen-style, taking down pedestrians and Shelley Winters on a cruise ship. Et cetera. It’s seven minutes long, this thing, so I can write the review longhand without even rewinding the video. You just watch me do it; I’m not even at the three-and-a-half-minute mark.
     “Triumph” has almost a dozen sets and backdrops, from the rapping-from-the-side-of-a-skyscraper one to the penitentiary one to the deep-space metacommentary as the bees temporarily orbit the earth. This is an expensive video, but there are so many verses, rappers and scenarios that the darn thing seems as if it’s disconnected. So “Triumph” in the end is just like watching some three-hour movie that’s good but not classic, no Gone With the Ol’ Dirty Wind. --AH


Copyright 2001 Andrew Hicks