OF THE WEEK
The Hives - Main Offender
The Hives, in a mere two and a half minutes, have put out the best music video of 2002 so far. "Main Offender" is a black-and-white band-feud effort that mixes live action with a shitload of animation - basically, the five guys in the band are the only real things in the video - and pits The Hives against another act called The Negatives. Director Karl Haglund opens the video with a series of newspaper headlines showing The Hives on the way out and The Negatives on the way in, all thanks to the latter band's copping of the former's routine.
This simply won't do - at a press conference, The Hives' manager or whoever declares that "Punkrock City is not big enough for both of them." The Hives mobilize and head out to the secluded mansion that houses The Negatives, who turn out to be the same five people. That doesn't keep them from kicking the shit out of each other, which is shown in graphic comic detail and leaves The Hives victorious, naturally.
The plot of the video isn't much, though you can't exactly cram a Gone With the Wind-type epic into 150 seconds of airtime. Still, it's the perfect framework for Haglund's camera tricks, subtitles and swirling pop-art montages. Part of the "city" is even made out of words on paper, and the camera is in constant motion. Meanwhile, the song itself is perfect distorted early-era punk with lots of pop sensibility. "Main Offender" probably won't see much airplay outside of MTV2, but it should.
Cee-Lo - Closet Freak
Cee-Lo of Goodie Mobb has put together the perfect retro party-funk track - "Closet Freak" is such a summer song it makes you pissed off that it's only March. Once you watch the video, you may also be pissed off at your lack of good-strong windowpane acid or Ecstasy. It's Parliament meets Prince meets Outkast meets James Brown, and the visuals from director Brian Beletic owe as much to the psychedelic side of Studio 54 as the current club scene. Not to mention an apparent grand theft of the contents of Dre and Big Boi's wardrobe closet.
Cee-Lo shows up in feather boas, phony Mohawks and ruffled tux shirts, but it's his polyester TV preacher get-up that cracks me up the most. It's the white suit-black suit rapid-edit collage that trips me out the most. And it's the trio of pimped-out "Soul Train" backup dancers that turns me on the most. All of "Closet Freak" takes place on one soundstage, and the swirling lights and visual tricks never have mercy on you for a second. Yet the proceedings never get too exploitive or gaudy. This shit isn't to all tastes - some people might even consider it cheesy, god forbid - but I don't think there's anything funnier or anyone having any more fun than Cee-Lo on MTV right now.
DMX featuring Faith Evans - I Miss You
Finally I have an emotional DMX video to review, after hearing fans of the gruff-voiced rapper swear to God he has an honest, emotional side and a natural way with words that trumps such lyrical gems as "Y'all gon make me ack a fool up in here, up in here" and "Get at me dog." And, yeah,. "I Miss You" is 100% heartfelt and does have a strong flow to it, especially during the verse when he updates his grandma's corpse on family gossip. I mean literally raps to his dead grandmother at her funeral service - the song is dedicated to Gram Gram and has Faith Evans, herself no stranger to death, wailing out the chorus.
Maybe it was Faith's idea to have DMX perform part of the song from atop the same gold-tinged hills that were featured in the "I'll Be Missing You" video back when Biggie was mowed down. Aside from that, the outdoor burial sequence and flashbacks of DMX getting his ears boxed by Gram Gram as a child (and, if you're curious, he did have a completely bald dome even as a preteen), there's not much to the video. It even ends with a chorus from that least original of songs to steal, "Amazing Grace." How long until some hip-hopper samples "Pop Goes the Weasel," I wonder?
Incubus - Nice to Know You
I guess it had to happen eventually - Incubus had to run out of money to make those elaborate, ingenious videos. Okay, so there was only one ("Stellar") that qualified as ingenious, but the other ones were at least entertaining. "Nice to Know You" is your standard concert video, with ample strobe lights and crowd shots to break the monotony, and it's not even live or anything. It's just a mimed performance, with singer Brandon Boyd barely even wandering the stage and, this is going to frustrate the hell out of the adolescent girls who control the music industry right now, not even showing off that chiseled little torso of his. No chiseled torso, no sale. The *N Sync guys are showing off pubes to sell records now. It's time for Incubus to get with the times.
Alanis Morissette - Hands Clean
Sometime over the summer and fall, after I got beer-drunk a few dozen times and perfected my Alanis impression in St. Louis karaoke bars*, I inadvertently fell in love with the pear-shaped revenge princess from Canada. A lot of the lyrics I used to consider mind-bogglingly pretentious I've found a touch of meaning in or at least been able to laugh off. God help me, I even think the Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie album was underrated. So it's an interesting time for Alanis to resurface and provide me with a whole new batch of future karaoke classics. The first video, "Hands Clean," even has a sequence with three girls and a guy karaokeing the song itself, so I can't possibly dis it.
If you haven't heard it or heard about it, "Hands Clean" is a strange autobiographical tale of an affair with a much older record company executive, back when Alanis was just a big-haired 14-year-old teen star. (Hey, at least she didn't get her maidenhead plowed through in the "You Can't Do That on Television" days.) She was young and he took advantage, but Alanis spares us the wronged-bitch indignance of "You Oughta Know." Instead, she approaches it with a weird kind of detached bemusement, and director Francis Lawrence presents it the same way. We watch the whole video from a screen within a screen, as a Steadicam shot slowly pulls in and out a little bit and a rotating title card below the inner screen tells us how much time is passing between shots.
The video starts at the beginning of the affair, with Alanis portraying her Canadian teen-star self. Instead of pedophile stuff, though, we mostly see the evolution of her career as time goes by - her writing her first songs, recording them, doing the video shoots and watching her single and album launch from obscurity to stardom. You'd think it a self-indulgent, curtain-closing thing to do when someone is trying to stage a comeback, but the whole thing is done so properly, from so many angles, that it's like being reintroduced to an old friend with new perspective. Of course, in this case, the "new perspective" is the revelation that our favorite Canadian irony-logger spread wide in the eighth grade for a middle-aged man. But you know Alanis, always keeping it dysfunctional.
* = Occasionally adlibbing new lyrics at random, such as, "It's the black fly in your Dr. Dre / It's a Death Row contract two albums too late," and "I feel drunk but I'm sober / I'm gay but I'm straight / I'm Canadian yet Irish, bayee-bay!"
Nas - Got Ur Self A...
Now don't all y'all hatas say Nas fell off or don't know what's goin' on these days. He's so timely he's just now dedicating a video to the memory of "our fallen brothers and soldiers" Tupac and Notorious B.I.G., who were dead and buried long before Monica Lewisnky ever took the presidential penis into her puffy mouth. That's what Nas is dedicating his next single to, but we're not going to go into that.
You're going to have to decide for yourself whether it's in bad taste for Nas to devote a video to reenacting the murders of Biggie and Pac and then warn the likes of Limp Bizkit and Petey Pablo to watch their backs, but you'll probably agree there isn't much of a point to "Got Ur Self." Aside from pure, unadulterated ego from a guy who isn't half as good as Big or 2Pac.
The MTV people have cut out so many lyrics - including the word "die," for Christ's sake - that I have to wonder if they dropped some of the narrative as well. Like the part that ties together the disconnected images of Nas confessing to an old, angry-looking priest, the dramatized murders themselves, some classy party and the requisite pouring out of forties for the slain rappers.
P.O.D. - Youth of the Nation
These guys are such badasses they're nominated for like a half-dozen Dove Awards. They're going to sweep the Christian music industry awards show and drink maybe three or four O'Doul's and play a heated game of Jenga at the afterparty at Amy Grant and Vince Gill's house. I know, I've been ragging on P.O.D. for like a year and a half now and they're really not all that bad, but something just seems a little off with them. Someone should remind them of the old Bible verse that you can't serve two masters - you have to choose God or TRL, guys, not both.
I guess they've made the decision, though, based on the title of the new single, "Youth of the Nation." It starts off as your standard rap-rock ballad (and, this being Black History Month and all, I feel like I should mention that MTV doesn't censor these white boys' lyrics about "gats" and taking two bullets to the chest) and segues to a disgruntled-teen chorus that's half ripped off from Pink Floyd's The Wall and, well, most of the Christian music I've heard. Serving two masters.
The video isn't unpleasant or anything, it just has the same type of mismatched, uninspired imagery. The band standing in front of a collage of pictures of kids, a suicidal runaway who "just wanted to be hugged" and "was never really one of the guys" taking off on a road trip and, of course, groups of teenagers singing the chorus. Staring dead ahead, not giving a fuck. Because P.O.D. doesn't really give them much to care about.
Sade - Paradise (live)
(**) Am I the only person who thinks there's something inherently wrong with the image of Sade trying to rock out, strutting around onstage throwing air punches while her guitarist tosses out the same disco power chord riff for like five minutes straight? Sade is perfect when she's quiet and smooth and elegant, which is like all the time outside of this concert video. And, granted, she goes back to being the usual subdued Sade (which is to say, having no stage presence whatsoever) once she starts actually singing "Paradise." She walks in place most of the time and finally shakes her hips a little when the male singers come out to dance with her during the instrumental breakdown. They're both just as bland on the boogie tip, too. I like my Sade slow and sensual, the trippier the better, but it doesn't really translate to the stage, especially when they make half-assed attempts to make her accessible to America's youth or whatever. Give me the black-and-white video for "Cherish the Day" anytime.
Remy Shand - Take a Message
(***) The singer looks like Jay Kay, the front man from Jamiroquai, and sounds like some bizarre falsetto combination of Marvin Gaye and Beck doing his Prince impression in "Debra," but somehow Remy Shand (whether it's the name of the band or the singer I can't say - I still don't do my homework) has come up with a catchy-ass R+B ballad. And he's fucking white as John Ashcroft. Be careful he doesn't steal away your civil liberties.
The video begins at a soul and blues club, which is holding an open audition for a soul singer. The brotha at the door scoffs at the appearance of Jamirogayebeck, and the guys at the bar seem more bemused than anything, but he sits down at the keyboard, starts up a metronome and belts out "Take a Message." Soon there's an entire white band backing him, he's switched over to a rhythm guitar, and the club is filled with rented Lenny Kravitz heroin models, all swaying to the beat. Director Kedar Massenburg's finished product isn't all that exciting, but it's just as laid back and stylish as the song itself, and that's really all you need.
X-Ecutioners f/Mike Shinoda and Mr. Hahn of Linkin Park - It's Goin' Down
(**1/2) What's a burgeoning rap-metal act with three DJ's to do if it wants to distinguish itself from every other new sound-alike band out there? Grab a couple guys from Linkin Park, whose album somehow managed to outsell every other sound-alike rap-metal band and everyone else last year. Even all the boy groups and girl sluts and seemingly endless Now swill couldn't topple Linkin Park, but you know what? "It's Goin' Down," which isn't all that distinctive a song, is better than everything Linkin Park has released to radio and MTV. I'm guessing because that downtrodden blond fuck of a front man has been left out of the proceedings. There will be no psychotherapy buzzphrases to kill the party this time.
Mr. Hahn, the Linkin Park DJ, also directed this video, which takes place entirely on one massive soundstage. The focal point is, naturally, the longest DJ platform you've ever seen - first Hahn is up there spinning records, then the other three DJs join him and still somehow get drowned out by the guitar player. Meanwhile, Shinoda raps into the camera, which wobbles and distorts itself and spins around. Maybe because it's a guy from the band directing it, the entire video is performance-oriented, which means a distinct lack of female flesh. Only at the end does the camera even pull back to reveal people watching the performance and getting down. Still, something about this is
R.E.M. - Stand (1989)
(**) I love this song, which served as the opening theme to the Chris Eliot sitcom "Get a Life" and inspiration for a Weird Al parody called "Spam." But the video, like "Get a Life" and Weird Al themselves, has its definite good and bad. I can sort of dig the travelogue clips - random images of everything from country roads to a cow's ass to a kid drawing a circle in chalk and jumping into it - but the main scenario of the video is winceworthy and inadvertently brought Michael Stipe out of the closet years before he came out willingly. There are four rented models on a soundstage, standing on the painted image of a compass and doing the official "Stand" dance. It involves swiveling your arms and hips, switching direction when Michael Stipe sings "Now face north" or "west" and trying to look as embarrassingly white as possible. Even the black girl with the dreads manages to achieve whiteness in its liliest of forms. It's not near as bad as "Shiny Happy People," but it's definitely not happening.