Tag Archives: Music video

What YMCA by the Village People can teach us

This is a classic song from the late ’70s, and it’s worth talking about for a few reasons.

First, the People of the Village prove that band members don’t need to dress the same, seeing how every other rock and punk band tries to stand out by putting on matching (a) black leather jackets and black guyliner, (b) spandex with long, permed blond locks, possibly paying homage to Heather Locklear or (c) ironic suits and ties worn with red Converse sneakers.

You don’t need to memorize the band members in the Village People because their outfits give you a handy shorthand. Plus it’s more interesting. Even KISS understands this and varied the crazy costumes and makeup enough so fans could dress as their favorite instead of throwing on a generic leather jacket and some mascara to be “you know, somebody from the Flaming Squirrels, maybe the  drummer.”

Variety is good, even when it comes to the hairstyles of boy bands, which should be banned by the Music Police.

Second, this song proves the power of third-party validation. That’s a fancy way of saying, “Hey, it’s great that every singer, actor and C-list celebrity talks smack about how great they are, yet their ethos is crazy weak when they do so, seeing how we look sideways at their sincerity and self-interest. What’s far more believable, and effective, is to praise somebody — or something — that doesn’t share your first and last name.”

Instead of singing a song where the Village People brag about how many boats they own, and how their singing is so great that we know there’s life on Mars because there are 17 different Village People superfan clubs in the southern hemisphere of that planet alone, they spend an entire song bragging on this unlikely place: your humble, local Y.

And they make it fun, and memorable. This video gave birth to a little YMCA dance of forming the letters people around the world know.

Well done, People of the Village.

Related posts: Music Video Monday’s Greatest Hits

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist and scribbler of speeches. Wrote a thriller (FREEDOM, ALASKA) that won some award. Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

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Why boy bands — and girl bands — will haunt us forever and ever

Why is there an endless supply of cheesy all-boy bands?

The thing is, there always has been, and always will be. Because they are meeting a market demand for a demographic that will never, ever go away: tweenagers. Specifically, tweenage girls.

Smart music moguls know this. They also are smart enough to realize that a bunch of 16 to 20-something boys are far, far more likely to hang around playing Call of Duty for 12 hours a day instead of sweating out dance moves while planning possible world tours.

They also know that a group of good-looking singers, male or female, is inherently more attractive than a single singer. There’s science to this. There’s also the fact that a solo artist means betting against them going to rehab, firing you as their manager, deciding to become a punk rock singer or otherwise turning into the Justin Bieber monster of today and losing all his fans.

But if you’ve got choreographers, songwriters and PR people on staff, then hey, you’ve got a machine, a license to print money, and all you need are some good-looking kids with some talent. And it’s actually not smart to bet everything on what you think is your most talented quartet of boys, because tastes in music are fickle for grownups, much less tweenage girls. If you’ve got a factory capable of cranking out boy bands, the best thing to do is keep on cranking them out, because soon enough, the boys will (a) get too old for your demographic or (b) your best singer will go solo and (c) the band will die.

We saw this with the ’90s with bands. But it’s just as true today. One Direction is a reality-show band put together by Simon Cowell’s machine.

And to be honest, girl bands are the same thing, aimed at the same demographic. Think it’s tweenage boys going to Spice Girl concerts or all these Japanese girl bands? Nope. It’s tweenage girls.

This makes perfect sense. Fans of action movies will show up at the megaplex and buy $9 popcorn whether the hero shooting zombies is a muscled tough guy or a hot-but-tough girl. Genre, not gender, determines audience.

When you get older, and hit college, you start to develop taste and would rather die than get caught listening to a NKOTB song. Instead of becoming popular by following the tweenage herd, you seek popularity by being a hipster who only listens to indie bands nobody’s heard of, bands you adore and then abandon at the first sign of success. THIS IS THE LAW.

So though I enjoy making fun of boy bands (and girl bands) as much as anyone, you have to admire how producers create and package these machines. It takes a village to raise a boy band, and to count all the profits before they implode. But by then, you’re on the next one.

Related posts: Music Video Monday’s Greatest Hits

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller (FREEDOM, ALASKA) that won some award. Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

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SELFIE by The Chainsmokers is timely and brilliant

Nothing is more trendy now than taking a selfie. Everybody’s doing it: teenagers, movie stars, rock stars, wannabe stars, your grandma, Ellen at the Oscars.

It’s a selfie pandemic.

This music video nails the whole selfie trend. Added bonus: the song rocks and the video is spot-on.

Warning: there’s a bad word or two in here, if that sort of thing puts you in therapy.

Related posts: Music Video Monday’s Greatest Hits

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller (FREEDOM, ALASKA) that won some award. Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

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KISSING IN THE RAIN by Patrick Doyle is perfect

Movie soundtracks are typically (a) silly pop songs by whoever is hot at the moment or (b) orchestras cranked up to 11, whether you can afford John Williams, Hans Zimmer or some dude you know who owns a synthesizer.

Sidenote: That last method actually worked with the soundtrack for the Terminator movies.

But we are here to talk about a little snippet from the soundtrack of GREAT EXPECTATIONS, one of five zillion deep romantic dramas that Ethan Hawke has starred in.

Here’s the music video with footage from the actual motion picture and such:

See? Sometimes, you don’t need words.

You don’t even need images for this music to make you feel something.

Most soundtracks are repetitive. The theme from the Terminator movies is well-known because it’s simple and repeats itself five zillion times. Dah-don-don-don-DON.

This bit of music works for me because it ebbs and flows, changes and grows. I’ve heard it a hundred times and it hasn’t gotten boring. And it arouses different emotions in different parts. Subtle ones that silly pop stars and Hans Zimmer can’t touch, though I do love myself some Zimmer craziness.

So: Patrick the Doyle, who I’ve never heard of, I salute you, not only for this piece of musical gold, but for having the guts to also have piano goddess Tori Amos do the song SIREN on this same soundtrack.

Bonus: compare the original theme for TERMINATOR

with the more evolved version in TERMINATOR 2:

Related posts: Music Video Monday’s Greatest Hits

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller (FREEDOM, ALASKA) that won some award. Represented by Jill Marr of the Dijkstra Literary Agency.

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BriWi nails RAPPER’S DELIGHT

One of the best things about late night on the Glowing Tube is this man named Jimmy Fallon, who recently took over the Tonight Show from Captain Lantern Jaw (hey, the ’70s called, and they want their hair back, then the ’50s called, asking for their jokes back).

In all seriousness about men paid millions to be silly on the teevee, it did feel like Jay Leno was a cartoon from the ’50s, telling jokes that were stale when my grandfather heard them. Nice guy and all. Just boring.

Jimmy the Fallon, on the other hand, is an innovation machine.

Slow-jamming the news was one thing. Now he’s got BriWi (Brian Williams) doing classic rap songs, and the results keep getting better. Check it out.

Related posts: Music Video Monday’s Greatest Hits

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller (FREEDOM, ALASKA) that won some award. Represented by Jill Marr of the Dijkstra Literary Agency.

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SAY SOMETHING by A Great Big World and Christina the Aguilera

Listen: I loved this song on the radio and played the video five straight times. However, it’s my job, my sacred duty and my Bobby Brown prerogative to (a) look for flaws, (b) make fun of things and (c) find serious ways to fix those silly flaws.

Great song and artsy vid, right?

Let’s break it down.

First, for about three seconds I thought Malcolm Gladwell put in his 10,000 hours of hard practice at the piano and formed a band. But no, this singer simply has the same epic hair, which I love. And he rocks that piano.

Second, I salute Christina the Aguilera, who always had more talent than her Mousketeer mate Britney Spears, closer to Tonya Harding than Tori Amos and an even bet to one day go bankrupt and wind up living in a trailer park in Texas, singing karaoke on weekends at the honky tonk. Christina has pipes, common sense and the brains to hook up with new indie bands like Great Big World. So: RECOGNIZE.

Third, the other guy is clearly the other member of the band, and he’s got nothing to do in this video. Zero. Zip. Nada. I suspect he is to the piano stud as Ryan Lewis is to Macklemore, so hey, he’s required to be in the music video, but he’s got nothing to do. And that’s the number one flaw to fix, right off. The solution is easy: Mr. Director, hand that man a violin, a tambourine or a bottle of bourbon so he can properly emote. Give him something to do beside lean on the piano or sit on the piano. The guy looks bored because he MUST be bored out of his skull, and that’s crazy boring for us to watch. The dude must have gobs of talent. Let him show off a little.

The next two problems to fix: a heavy dose of Overly Dramatic Squirrel and on-the-nose imagery, two great problems that don’t go great together.

When we first see Christina the Aguilera, she does a slow-mo version of a model fiercely crosslegging down the catwalk.

beyonce catwalking

The next ten times we see her, she’s dramatically touching her face and such. Listen, the lyrics are dramatic enough. You don’t have to sell it to the people in the back rows of the theater, because this isn’t a Broadway play. It’s a video. The camera is close enough to show off your clean pores, in 1080p or 4k or whatever video format Samsung invented yesterday.

The on-the-nose imagery is the visual twin of dialogue that Hollywood screenwriters, director and actors would say are on-the-nose.

Nobody says what they really mean, and no video should beat you over the head with a sledgehammer with its message. If you want to sing about being sad, sing it. If you want to show sadness while a guitar wails, show it. But don’t sing sadly while a piano tinkles sadly and the actor on screen does exactly what you’re singing about, like hiding her head under the covers. Because that’s on-the-nose overkill.

Subtext is stronger than text. John Waite understands this.

Also, in the climax of the song, the singer / piano master goes completely crazy leg on us, and yeah, we get that you’re really into it, and this is the big finish, but there’s a weird contrast going on between you, your slow-motion Genie in a Bottle, your completely comatose buddy. This part didn’t fly. Maybe they don’t have choreographers for piano guys, and maybe they should.

But these are minor flaws. Nitpicking, really. It’s a beautiful song and an impressive video.

Verdict: Love this song. The video, while flawed, is still 100 times more watchable than whatever nonsense Justin Bieber is putting out in between getting arrested in LA, Miami, Toronto or whatever city he’s being arrested in today.

Related posts: Music Video Monday’s Greatest Hits

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller (FREEDOM, ALASKA) that won some award. Represented by Jill Marr of the Dijkstra Literary Agency.

4 Comments

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Sting nails it with WHY SHOULD I CRY FOR YOU?

Sting is the opposite of a one-hit wonder. And this little song shows off that he can write, too.

Here’s the video, which is a nice little black-and-white piece that doesn’t feature a single shot of Sting wailing into a microphone while the band plucks at guitars. I appreciate that.

And here are the lyrics, which is why I’m posting about this song. My favorite bit: “Dark angels follow me / Over a godless sea.” It’s a damn sight better than Justin “Dragracing to Deportation” Beiber’s “Baby, baby, baby.”

WHY SHOULD I CRY FOR YOU by Sting

Under the dog star sail
Over the reefs of moonshine
Under the skies of fall
North, north west, the Stones of Faroe

Under the Arctic fire
Over the seas of silence
Hauling on frozen ropes
For all my days remaining
But would north be true?

All colours bleed to red
Asleep on the ocean’s bed
Drifting on empty seas
For all my days remaining

But would north be true?
Why should I?
Why should I cry for you?
Dark angels follow me
Over a godless sea
Mountains of endless fog,
For all my days remaining,

What would be true?

Sometimes I see your face,
The stars seem to lose their place
Why must I think of you?
Why must I?
Why should I?
Why should I cry for you?
Why would you want me to?
And what would it mean to say,
That, “I loved you in my fashion”?

What would be true?
Why should I?
Why should I cry for you?

Related posts: Music Video Monday’s Greatest Hits

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller (FREEDOM, ALASKA) that won some award. Represented by Jill Marr of the Dijkstra Literary Agency.

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Billy Squire wrecks his career with ROCK ME TONITE

If you don’t remember Billy the Squire, probably because you weren’t born yet, he was kind of a big deal for a while. A rising star.

Then this video came out and smooshed him faster than you can say Milli Vanilli.

And yes, he started out by getting creative with the spelling of “tonight,” because that’s the revolutionary rebelliousness of a true rock star, though he didn’t go as far as Prince, who uses an entirely different alphabet.

Let’s ask ourselves, for the sake of history: Why was this music video so deadly?

It’s not the music. This isn’t some 11-minute long art film with a soundtrack that some rock star thought would be a killer idea. And yeah, that happens. Somebody gets famous and they think every idea that pops into their head is brilliant.

Close your eyes and listen to the song. It’s not terrible. A decent rocker with nothing to really complain about.

The lyrics aren’t inspired, but they aren’t completely insipid, either. Let’s go with banal.

Here’s the problem: people didn’t have their eyes closed. If this song simply hit the radio, Billy might have kept on rising up and making scads of money.

The visuals are simply awful.

Billy oozes uncool out of every pore. If there’s matter and anti-matter, there’s cool and uncool. Billy does not come off as cool in this video. He doesn’t seem like a cocky, confident rock star. It feels like he’s trying too hard, and failing.

There aren’t that many rock stars who look good dancing. The smart ones keep it low key. Billy Idol doesn’t dance — he pouts and pumps his fist. Bruce Springsteen never really dances. Bono, Sting, even Mick Jagger doesn’t really dance. He does a funky chicken and that’s about it.

Billy the Squire kept trying aerobic instructor moves, which did not look good on film.

When his band finally showed up, I kept swearing they cloned Billy, or shot multiple takes with him playing all the instruments. Every band member but one dude had the same outfit and over-permed hair. IT WAS CONFUSING, and not in a good way.

So all in all, this is an epic train wreck of a video.

Also: Bonus points to whoever digs up what happens to Billy Squire.

Related posts: Music Video Monday’s Greatest Hits

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller (FREEDOM, ALASKA) that won some award (PNWA 2013). Represented by Jill Marr of the Dijkstra Literary Agency.

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BREAKING BAD music video mashup is pure gold

It’s almost as if Weird Al wrote this song for BREAKING BAD.

The maker of this compilation deserves serious props for matching up the lyrics with the right scenes from the epic show. I tip my Heisenberg fedora to you, good sir.

Related posts: Music Video Monday’s Greatest Hits

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller (FREEDOM, ALASKA) that won some award. Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

Leave a comment

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MISSING YOU by John Waite teaches us all about subtext

Here’s a classic song with a video that proves singers should sing, and actors should act.

What’s not to love here?

John Waite‘s hair is pure ’80s gold, with feathery blow-dry action in the front and a sneaky pseudo-mullet in the back. It’s a Don Johnson-punk mullet. Plus he rocks the standard One Dangly Earring look that every lead singer was required to have for about two years.

Adam Ant with the Mandatory One Dangly Earring

Adam Ant with the Mandatory One Dangly Earring

HOWEVER: What’s most interesting to me is how the lyrics clash with the video.

The lyrics avoid being “on the nose,” which is Hollywood screenwriter slang for people saying, or singing, exactly what they mean. Nobody in real life does that. It’s not realistic, not good for a story and not fun for the audience.

People avoid coming out and saying directly what they truly feel.

A hero doesn’t say, “Hey, I’m really scared, and I don’t want to die, so maybe you could drop that gun and let me handcuff you, seeing how I don’t want to get shot or get stuck with piles of paperwork if I shoot you first.” He says, “Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya?”

A villain doesn’t say, “Being locked up in this dark basement next to low-level lunatics is beyond boring, and I would rather stick needles in my eye than communicate with these beasts, but pretty young FBI agents are something I never get to see, so I hope you stick around and talk to me for hours, Special Agent.” He says, “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”

So while the acting and the visuals in the video are completely on the nose, with zero ambiguity or subtlety, the lyrics are great and full of subtext.

John Waite misses his girlfriend / lover / wife, but he doesn’t say, “Hey baby, I miss you a lot, and I’m a wreck, and I wish you’d come back.”

He sings, “I ain’t missing you” and follows that up with “I ain’t missing you at all” and seven other variations of the same thing.

But we know he’s lying.

And that’s what makes this song a classic.

Related posts: Music Video Monday’s Greatest Hits

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller (FREEDOM, ALASKA) that won some award (PNWA 2013). Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

5 Comments

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