Music video reviews
posted by Filippo on 11/24/01
Big Ups to VH1's exceptional and criminally overlooked Say it Loud series, which was as entertaining and enjoyable as anything seen this year. A bit of a shock since it seems VH1 is allergic to anything that isn't soggy and mild non-black pop music or milquetoast rock. Then again, this was too classy and superior for the incompetent B.E.T, and MTV usually isn't interested in anything that either didn't happen this year, or isn't somehow patting themsleves on the back.
The Quincy Jones-led project undertook the cumbersome task of trying to encompass different realms and eras of Black Music and they executed in pretty grand fashion. Instead of a bland narrator with a synthetic delivery, the perspectives and ancedotes were given from the artists themselves and the shameful hurdles they were forced to overcome. Enabling us the viewer to absorb the travails of the personal journeys and accomplishments. One would have hoped that a triumph of such magnitude would have attracted more press and accolades, but I guess thats just naivete on my part.
From the agony end is Brandon, lead singer of Incubus, who in a recent edition of Spin attempted (smartly, I suppose) to distinguish himself and the group from the aesthetically-maligned Limp Bizkit culture by throwing a generalizing grenade at the rap-metal fusion labelling it (paraphrased) "bullshit" and a "horrible place to be". No probs there, but in the process of his acerbity, he acted as if the DJ he has scratching his fingernails off in every song has nothing to do with hip hop flava (a term used as patronizingly as possible) and is there for texture only.
Last time I checked scratching wasn't invented by Van Halen or Led Zeppellin. It's a hip hop element that they are attempting to meld into their overall sound. Sure, Mr. Brandon is not pandering to the hip hop community or embarrassing the artform by humiliating himself on the mic (enough rappers do that enough as is), but it's insulting to everyone when you try to distance yourself from the "CrazyTowns" of the music scene with hackneyed panache.
I agree that the rap-metal genre is a "horrible place to be in". But when your fan constituency finds a new one-hundred and twenty pound sex symbol to ogle over, those dusty small venues that will only house a Incubus proformance will be just as horrible.
Enrique Iglesias - Hero
"The world certainly needs a hero. Or a bitter ex-wrestler whose family must have drowned Karma's puppy dog."
Hero, a late night Cinemax flick posing as a video, depicts a lovelorn tale of a forbidden romance between Enrique Iglesias, Love-Hewitt, and the fickle public. The against-all-odds couple are trying to get as much mileage out of their looks from a demanding and ever changing fan base. Will love win out? After America's brief love affair with Latin pop has all but evaporated, and the beans and rice have been removed from the platters of the taste of America, will Enrique go the way of Jennifer Lopez? Or Ricky Martin? Hewitt is trying desperately to break away from her former saccharine-sweet Party of Five teen phase and morph herself into the mature vixen. Will young boys still find her masturbatory worthy? Or is she just another Molly Ringwald?
The arduous struggle is on.
Thumbs down for the song and the video.
Britney Spears ("I'm a slave for you") & Puff Daddy ("Diddy")
Might as well combine the two. Both bite like Mike Tyson offspring. Both employ the pop accessible and very much fatigued Neptune production. Both are as shameless as they come. And both of their god-fearing facades are about as hollow as it gets in the entertainment industry. Life of a Superstar is hard MOTHERFUCKIN Work..Only difference is that Puffy is a smart impresario who has proven bulletproof (in more ways than one), while you get the sense that the oxymoron, moral-slut career of Spears may be on its last implants...err, legs.
My Thumbs are about as enthusiastic as the next W-D get together.
Shakira - Whatever, Whenever Whatever, Whenever, Dude. Wait, now I sound just like Courteney Love!
The critical eye tells you that your disposition should already be negative given the nauseating hype surrounding her U.S push, the least of which including a cheesy cringe-worthy Pepsi commercial. (Following a seemingly chosen path considering that lately Pepsi seems to be on a serious mission to get the lamest of music to hawk their cavity creators - Spears, Sisqo, Spice Girls...)
Her bleached blond hair leaves the impression that Shakira is in a running contest with Christina Aguilera to see who can look the whitest and actually have the gall to claim Latino heritage. The possession of a sandpaper, nails-on-chalkboard singing voice makes you wonder just how low musical sensibilities have fallen. The "star in your own video" Amusement Park-like graphics that guide her video leaves even a two year old less than fullfilled. A veritable pick your posion.
But if confronted and given the opportunity would you not rip off a right toenail to get a shot at her panties? Ah, when you inevitably bypass the staunch predesigned measures of artistic merit from the arbiters of substance, you conclude, sadly, that it really doesn't matter. Welcome to reality, she's hot... everything else is about as relevant as last week's Lotto Numbers.
Thumbs down for the video and song....but again, who cares really?
DMX - Who We Be
"El Negro! Hey, ripping off "Friday" is enormous fun. LOL"
Superficially, DMX mirrors all the self-indulgent and accessible ghetto-fabulous mainstream rap artists. He makes all the accepted moves, most memorably the ultra-Jiggy collabo with Black music's new punching bag, Sisqo (probably wishes he could have that one back). But like the moniker he has adopted, DMX can stray sometimes. WhoWe Be is more of a reflection of DMX as a person, as the emotion pours out at the seams and comes across more as a growling manifesto rather than a by-the-numbers rap joint. But damn, this hostile song can grow overbearing after a few listens. It is something different, a sort of blunted bold for a second release on a highly anticipated album.
Thumbs in the middle for the song - Thumbs up for the video
Michael Jackson - You Rock My World. Fearing that the image of Tucker and Jackson together might inspire random acts of violence, enjoy this somewhat less frightening visage.
The days of Jackson's larger than life 80's persona and demigod stature are buried along with the Ninja Turtles. Instead, replaced by punchlines over his eccentricities, cup of coffee marriages, disappointing albums, and reputation devouring molestation accusations. The cool Autumn months of 2001 find Micheal attempting to squeeze his sinewy physique and bizarrely packaged frame into a overcrowded commercial scene and establish himself as an artist who paradoxically can survive the 5 minute pop world of fans - most of whom weren't even conceived yet during his glory days.
Michael is sticking close to the formula that garnered him faint-on-sight status from fans. The short film video. His interaction with Chris Tucker is generic, but any sense of normalcy that you can add to the MJ ambience has to be a priority. Michael's one-two, jump-to-the-chin barfight is definitely rolling eyes worthy, but again refer to the last sentence. Sonically, the track does a nice job in updating his style without any drastic alterations, rendering his legendary trademarks useless. It's just amazing how Michael can seem so powerful and aggressive in his performances, when in real life, air leaves him in an anxious surgical mask-over-mouth state.
Thumbs up for the video and song.
Various Artists - What's Going On
Oh my, the artists featured in this denigration masquerating as "reaching out" reads as a who's who shitlist for discerning fans who shun the TRL ethos.
Jermaine Dupri. Ow. Fred Durst. Yikes. Nelly Furtado. Ouch. Nelly. Double Ouch. Jah Rule. Triple Ouch. Destiny's Child. Doh!. N'Sync. Have any cleaning products to sniff? The list goes on and on, with only Nas and U2 serving as brief respites to the slaughtering of a timeless classic. Such a lineup can engulf even the kindest music fan soul in a seething hostile rage. If you are intent enough you can certainly depict this as another disrespectful and callous shot towards the substance of years past, in which artists of today pillage songs and give it a glitzy make-over.
But if you can turn down the internal anti-establishment knob and look past the manufactured stars, one-hit wonders, and a studio bereft of any actual musical substance, what you will discover is an applaudable effort to shine the spotlight on the A.I.D.S epidemic in Africa which has the population litterally dropping like flies. Understandably, the direction has shifted towards a cry for sanity in the wake of the September 11th nightmare. No matter how offensive and embarrassing it is to have cute little J.C Chavez from N'Sync covering Marvin, that intent is hard to casually and cynically dismiss.
Despite the fact that a majority of the artists fall into the "here today, gone next week" category, the here today part ensures maximum exposure. Sentiments are not coinciding here, but it's hard to get too maddingly self- righteous when you consider the same song is used in blasphamous fashion for a stupid ass phone commercial.
Next time you see the video if you turn down the sound real low and look at the screen cross eyed you can actually summon up the image and faintly hear Marvin actually rolling in his Grave. What's Going on, indeed?!
Thumbs up for the intent - Thumbs down for the execution and choice of artists.
Weezer - Island In The Sun
What you'd see if internet no-lives started a band!
In the mid-90's when the angst and depressed acid washed jeans of grunge started to fade, Weezer scored a smash by superimposing their images to a Happy Days episode resulting in the giddy delight of fans who were just happy to see something with a lighter tone, and not so threateningly aggressive. A musical lifetime later, the self-professed nerd rockers were able to rematriculate themselves right back into the 2001 scene with little fanfare or hype. Sort of lends credence to the assertion that, when you are more substance than fad, you might have fans who are willing to stick around with you for more than two months.
I get a strong sense that Island in the Sun, with its undeniable 80's feel, would have found a safer haven on the airwaves in 1985, so a quick thanks (or f-you) for the New Wave flashback. When you absorb the images of the band frolicking around on sun kissed hills with various cuddly animals in tow, your instant reaction is Jonze Video. Good ol' Spike has caught flak for the artsier than artsy texture to his work, but one would at least appreciate that he is one of the few musical directors who just doesn't throw in a few big breasted groupies and calls it a day. Not that there is a problem with big breasted groupies. I'm a big fan.
Thumbs up for the song and video.
Bubba Sparxxx - Ugly
If anyone is fit to talk about ugly, it's me... and my derivative red cap!
The response has been prematurely instantaneous and resounding. Bubba = Next Eminem. While Bubba's imaginative and sharp lyrics belie his Southern heritage (most southern rappers are trite and unimaginative), the only way you will get him confused with Eminem's abusrd talent level is by skin color only, which speaks to the subversive universe that is the rap world - although I am sure Bubba would love for that "confusion" to translate into tapping into Em's demographics enabling him to rack up even one-half of Slim Shady's soundscan numbers.
Timberland, looking to get Bubba's career off on the right foot, accomplished as much lacing Mr. Sparxxx with a scintillating guitar loop that is so tight both Gwenyth Paltrow and the 100 million dollar crackhead Whitney Houston would have a hard time fitting into it. The video is riddled with ugly images including insanely obese black men, a pigpen filled with guys flopping around in slop, a cornucopia of Redder than rednecks, and somebody apparently trying to get his Ron Jeremy on with a pig. All the same, Bobby Brown's career would have getten it "ugly up in here" enough. Right now, Mr. Sparxxx's only enemy is overexposure.
Thumbs up for the song. Thumbs in the middle for the video.
Jadakiss f/Eve & Sheek - We Gon Make It
Not much to add here other than that is one hell of an ill beat, with the dramatic and captivating strings bordering majestic. Alchemist, a producer who has made Tsunami-type waves on the underground circuit is fast approaching DJ Premier, God-like stature with every cut. The slicing visuals that tightly cut on beat is a visual eye pleaser. While the two-thirds of the Lox crew plus Eve triumvirate won't be confused with any G.O.A.T's, with the same lyrical manifestations you hear in every song, the adequate job they accomplish is more than enough to keep up. A spectacular song that is thoroughly and sufficiently carried by a hall of fame beat.
Thumbs way the fuck up for the song.
I said I wanted a child star onstage with me. I guess Culkin will do. He looks like a frog. I like frogs...and little boys...and long hot baths with various farm animals!