OF THE WEEK
The Crystal Method f/Scott Weiland -- You Know It’s
(***1/2) “You Know It’s Hard” has the
absolute perfect combination of artistry, humor and irony to make a video
memorable. The only reason I’m not doling out the coveted four-star rating
is that the video’s plot, involving a living porno blow-up doll, is a tad
too ludicrous. You know what they say -- it’s hard to achieve true genius
when you make a central character out of a sex toy. Dostoyevsky never brought
a dildo to life, for example.
A quick description of the plot, since it
does have plenty of novel moments -- a slightly creepy white guy
(I don’t know if it’s an actor or one of the guys from The Crystal Method,
since they’re not big enough stars to have penetrated my visual bubble)
brings home a blow up doll and proceeds to cook it a romantic dinner. He
props it up in the chair across from his at the candlelit dining room table
and goes to grab the food.
When he comes back, she’s gone, and a chase
ensues. She takes a cab, they both end up at a club, and... this part I
won’t tell you. You’ll just have to turn on your MTV and wish you had MTV2.
The ending ties in with the lyrics of the song, which you finally realize
have functioned as clues to the plot twist, and you might find yourself
rolling your eyes for a second or two. But it’s worth it to find out what
the frequently shown red siren lights are all about.
Marcos Siega directed this video with the
same care and effort you’d apply to any good art piece. The photography
is crisp and focused, and Siega uses lots of little visual tricks -- splitting
the screen into different-sized boxes, briefly reversing the person’s motion
and then replaying it, etc. And the video has a few moments of great comic
timing, of both the obvious and dry varieties. I mean that in a good way.
Check this one out if you can.
Bush -- The People That We Love
(**) Since the September 11th tragedies,
everyone’s been asking themselves, What will our fearless leader, George
W. “Gavin” Bush, release for his alternarock band’s next single? It seems
kind of silly for him and his guitar-heavy cohorts to be singing about
free love and blow in light of this national catastrophe. Will old Gav
issue a musical threat to Osama bin Laden and the Taliban? And what rhymes
with “anthrax,” anyway?
The answer we’ve been given is this lavishly
obnoxious video from a director billed as “Ulf.” (Memo to the CIA: Do a
background check on this person. He could be a foreigner or furry four-foot
alien intent on eating the nation’s cats.) Ulf gives us wind machine shots
of Gavin, who now looks like a bleach-blond Chris Connelly, sends animated
blue pulses around the screen and gives us a set populated with what looks
like mutated Fort Knox gold bars. The best of the bunch is a 3D-looking
geometric field of planets or something, but even that seems like it was
ripped off from an Incubus video. We tend to expect better from our president.
FACTUAL TIDBIT I’M NOT EVEN INTERESTED IN
CRACKING A DISTASTEFUL JOKE ABOUT: After the terrorist attacks, the name
of this song was changed from “Speed Kills” to its current, hug-friendly
title, “The People That We Love.” --AH
Garbage -- Androgyny
(***) I’ll warn you early -- I’m reviewing
a lot of sexually charged videos this week, so you’ll have to weather a
lusty comment or two. But, while some of the stuff below was fashionably
engineered to the “sex sells” approach, when it comes to Garbage making
a sexual video, you’ll have to expect everything but the kitchen sink.
These guys are some freaks.
Well, I mean, there are no enemas or scat
fetishes or anything, but you’ll see some girl-girl kissing, twosomes and
threesomes of people clawing each other in bathroom stalls and Shirley
in a butch, Just One of the Guys T-shirt and suspenders outfit that
makes her look like she’s trying out for the title role of a Broadway revival
of Oliver! Some of director David Cameron’s scenes are mesmerizing
and others just some like gratuitous freakdom.
The sound is distinctly fucked-up, 21st-century
pop, switching styles two or three times like most of the other songs on
the band’s new album, beautifulgarbage. And, while “Androgyny” isn’t
one of the strongest songs from the album, it has a playful quality that
makes it impossible to resist. For some reason, the chorus reminds me of
Roxette (one of the darkest lumps of horse crap hanging in my Guilty Pleasures
closet), and you can do with that information what you will. --AH
Linkin Park -- In the End
(**) I don’t like Slipknot or anything,
but I busted up when I read their comments on having to tour with Linkin
Park for Ozzfest. The way the Slipknot guys tell it, the Linkin Park guys
just sit around and drink chocolate milk and suck their thumbs all day.
Which doesn’t surprise me at all -- a lot of our more embarrassing, less
genuine rock acts have been thumb suckers. Christopher Cross, for example,
sucked his thumb ten hours a day, every day, without fail.
“In the End” is more bland white-boy rap,
more a ballad than the previous Linkin Park. That means the screaming of
psychoanalytic catchphrases is kept to a minimum, and the monotone rap
verses seem to have been aped equally from Limp Bizkit and, um, DC Talk.
The visual side, though, is pretty watchable.
It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. They’re out in the desert, manta rays
are flying by, and some kind of computer-animated hedge bush is out to
get them. Then there’s the performance footage, which occurs on a set that’s
supposed to be the inside of some big mystic statue but just reminds me
of those times on “I Dream of Jeannie” when Jeannie would shrink herself
and hang out inside her bottle.
“In the End” isn’t bad, but it’s by no means
Redman f/Adam F -- Smash Something
(**1/2) Lord, it’s a sorry sight when
Limp Bizkit gets there first. After their self-indulgent and highly idiotic
tune “Break Stuff,” I guess it was only a matter of time before some hip-hop
star shot back with a thematic sequel. Rock stars might have been smashing
guitars since Woodstock, but no one loves mass destruction quite like Redman.
Yet, in this time of national crisis, we can’t really show much in the
way of mass destruction -- like everyone said, Hollywood can’t shock or
horrify us quite like real life, and disaster movies and all that are going
to be moot points.
So what does flashy-ass director David Meyers
do? He centers the video around two redneck caricatures in oversize amusement
park get-up. Redman, as a mad scientist with a midget assistant, brings
the trailer-trash couple to life at the beginning of the video, and they
wreak havoc by -- among other things -- dancing along to Parliament’s “Flash
The letterboxed party video covers a range
of sets, from the bumping dance club to the diner to the parade of thugs
riding scooters down the street. It sounds commonplace, but there are enough
visual effects and camera movements to keep things interesting. If anything,
the video is too overloaded with distractions, particularly the animated
characters that occasionally pop up to run around the screen. When you
can’t show mass destruction, I guess you just have to show everything else.
Shakira -- Whenever, Wherever
(***) Videos are starting to look a
lot more like Maxim photo spreads, which is putting my horny, heterosexual
ass in a bind. I want to be an objective critic, though I recognize that
term is an inherent oxymoron. No, I want to judge on artistic merit, but
let’s face it, you have to cut the music video medium some slack when it
comes to eye candy.
Eye candy is what it’s all about, something
that will distract you from the limitations of your physical world and
elevate you into something awe-inspiring and magical. Like a surreal cloudscape
or a pair of beautifully pert breasts. Unless the song itself is hideous,
which disqualifies most of the Britney/Christina/Jessica/Mandy output,
I’m tempted to give a thumbs-up to any video that features an absolutely
gorgeous girl dancing and posing in a sensual fashion. When the artist’s
appeal and energy seem genuine and the video’s visuals actually impress
me, it’s icing on the cake.
“Whenever, Wherever” has Shakira -- a wannabe
Latin diva who sounds like an unholy cross between Celine Dion and Nelly
Furtado and looks like a hotass centerfold -- lip synching from a dozen
or more settings. Some of them, from Shakira dancing in the midst of a
horse stampede to Shakira standing atop a very narrow mountain, work. Others
look too blue-screen or stock-New Age. Overall, though, it’s a strong video
and worth watching once or twice. If just for the full-on Maxim sex
angle that keeps me in my horny, heterosexual ass in that aforementioned
Britney Spears -- I’m a Slave 4 U
(**) Okay, what I wrote about Shakira
goes double for this Britney Spears video. If you haven’t seen or spanked
it to “I’m a Slave 4 U,” you’ve surely at least heard one religious leader
condemn the fact that Britney wears a pair of skimpy-ass underwear on the
outside of her clothing. The Book of Ephesians clearly states that “neither
fornicators nor harlots nor wearers of skimpy-ass underwear on the outside
of their clothing will see the kingdom of heaven,” yet Britney’s taken
And somehow she’s made her initial image in
the “Baby... One More Time” video seem downright quaint and conservative,
even though my male friends and I were drooling over it between bong hits
just two and a half years ago. There wasn’t enough weed in the world to
have us picturing this girl with her undies outside her general clothing.
I mean, it’s like Ephesians says. Fornicators and harlots.
So our favorite teenage fornicating harlot
(at least, she’s been our favorite since Christina slathered on the makeup
and hair for the house-of-horrors “Lady Marmalade” video) creeps into a
laid-back bungalow party populated with stone-faced Calvin Klein-ad types.
She brings them to life, Britney does, and they fall in love with the form
of choreographed dance for the first time. So it’s a happy ending for everyone,
and it’s actually a better Britney video than average. The direction, from
Francis Lawrence, is a little more restrained and erotic than your standard
“I’m a Slave 4 U,” the song itself, is one
of Britney’s best. For once, she’s not milking the same transparent production
techniques -- “Slave” sounds more like stoner hip-hop than anything I ever
thought I’d hear from Spears. Was it produced by The Neptunes or something?
I’ve really got to start doing my homework one of these days, like... uhhh,
next week. In the meantime, all I have to say is, God, what a great time
it must be to be a fourteen-year-old male vegging out to MTV in this country.
The best we had in our day was Chilli from TLC and the Ace of Base chicks.
Usher -- You Got It Bad
(*1/2) Speaking of Chilli from TLC,
she’s the love interest in the new Usher video, his second from 8701
(hey, it’s a better title than Dawn of the Ushlennium). Well, actually,
she’s the camera’s second love interest -- its first is Usher’s chest and
abs, both of which it lovingly caresses for far too long at the beginning
of the video. I’m still flushing out my eyes.
“You Got It Bad” is a flowery street ballad
that’s half R. Kelly and half Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. In the video, Usher
plays either himself or an R+B superstar who looks a lot like himself,
while Chilli is a famous model and pop star. They break up, and it’s all
over the news -- there’s even some hilarious footage of Usher getting in
a public, almost-physical fight with Chilli and later bum rushing the tabloid
cameraman who catches the spat on tape.
So Usher mopes around his mansion for awhile,
straps on a Michael Jackson glove and thinks back to the days when she’d
slide on top of him and kiss him all over his irresistible red headband.
Those were the days, eh Usher? --AH
Foxy Brown f/Jay-Z -- I’ll Be (1998)
(***) I’m not an especially large Foxy
Brown fan (in a police lineup, I couldn’t really tell her rack from Lil’
Kim’s or that of, say, Sister Souljah), and anyone who’s read any of the
twenty Jay-Z videos I’ve reviewed knows I’m definitely not a large fan
of his and definitely couldn’t identify his rack in a police lineup. But,
for some reason unbeknownst to me, I’ve always been into this hip-hop dance
tune. I dig the beat, the throbbing bass line, even Jay-Z’s chug-along
The video, which manages its stylish share
of street cred even though it’s directed by the guy who brought the world
Nic Cage as The Family Man*, takes place in a vast, wooden-floored
dance club. A DJ segues from Method Man to this tune and Foxy takes off
her coat and presides over a batch of scantily clad dancers in shiny black
leather. When the Jiggaman is rapping, we’re treated to his posturing before
a bunch of male dancers decked out in all-white Puffy gear from the ’98
spring line. And, believe it or not, he looks effortlessly classy for once.
Okay, so this isn’t exactly a “classic video,”
but it’s one of my myriad guilty pleasures of the era. Like Usher’s “My
Way” or “Real World” from Matchbox 20. I can’t explain why I like it, I
know I probably shouldn’t like it, but I just do. Fuckin’ sue me. --AH
* = For some reason, knowing this fact has
me picturing Jay-Z in Cage’s role as the heartless business tycoon who
learns to love changing diapers, waking up to the same wife every day and
wiping baby spit-up off his Fubu.
R.E.M. -- The One I Love (1987)
(***) This was the song that brought
R.E.M. from the college rock scene to the realm of Top 40 and paved the
way for such cheese as “Stand” and *shudder* “Shiny, Happy People.” But
we’re not going to hold that against the video, which is quite elaborate
and artistic for a clip from the age of Huey Lewis and George Michael.
“The One I Love” also looks less dated than
most late-Reagan efforts because it’s more preoccupied with showing the
quiet side of life -- the somber man with his head buried in his wife’s
lap, for example -- than the glamorous side. Nothing about Michael Stipe
speaks glamour, as we well know. I’ve never seen the bastard in Prada.
The video may have humble roots, but the direction
is bizarre and the editing often rapid-fire. Whoever put this together
was in love with the idea of overlapping vastly different imagery in complementary
ways (sparks atop an opening flower, trees moving across Stipe’s face,
etc.), and since there are so many different scenarios in the video, the
transitions are almost seamless. Some of the hair is big, naturally, but
that’s to be expected from a video this damn Southern. --AH