Lessons learned from two terrible music videos: WILDER and WICKED WISDOM

Now, I enjoy bad music videos as much as any carbon-based life form on this planet. I’m a connoisseur of crazy.

There are different flavors, however.

Insanely Bad and Weird is far, far more interesting than The Quality’s So Low, You Have to Do the Limbo.

WILDER simply plumbs the depths of low-quality. We’re dragging a boat anchor on the floor of an ocean of garbage: terrible singing, horrible sound mixing, repetitive visuals, terrible dancing and extreme close-ups. It’s just a fiery train wreck packed with Nope.

Our second terrible video by WICKED WISDOM is an entirely different brand of bad. Check it out.

Polar opposites, right?

In the first video, we have an unknown singer toiling away with bad production values. You can understand the quality being bad. The budget was probably nothing.

In our second video, a famous actress–Jada Pinkett Smith–is performing on national TV with a band packed with professional musicians. They can play. She can sort-of sing while screaming, which is appropriate to the metal genre. Yet it’s still bad.

Most people won’t think less of the first singer. She’s not rich and famous, and she doesn’t do anything horribly obnoxious in the video. Maybe this is the first video she ever tried to do. We all can understand and feel for her. I actually would root for her to follow this up with something that actually rocked. 

As for movie stars trying to be singers–and singers trying to be movie stars, and professional athletes trying to be either–there’s zero sympathy from the audience. You’ve got mountains of money already, 12-car garages full of Italian sports cars, bodyguards, stylists, PR agents–everything in the world. But you want more.

So unless they’re truly, truly world-class as two different things, a celebrity is risking a lot doing something like this. The audience expects a lot more from you. They’ll get a lot more pleasure in laughing at your mistakes and failures than seeing you succeed.

VERDICT

Movie stars and other celebrities should, as a rule, stay in their lane to avoid train wrecks like WICKED WISDOM.

As for the first singer, I actually root for her to come back with something better. Give it a go.

William Shatner sings RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER, and yes, it is insane

OK, I have plenty of affection for the Shatner, who embraces his inner cheesiness with glee. Never takes himself too seriously.

So is this new Christmas song from Captain Kirk–who actually puts out entire Xmas albums–weirdly good or just good and weird?

Take a look.

I’m gonna say good and weird instead of weirdly good.

Here’s the deal: You can play it straight, and make a song for kids with kids in the video, or you can go cray-cray with creepy adults pretending to be child-sized elves mixed in with actual pookies.

This is a lot like the uncanny valley. We accept cartoonish images of people and super-realistic CGI, but the in-between business doesn’t work. Freaks us out.

Shatner’s video and song freaks me out, and not in a good way. I get that he’s trying to do a twist on a song that’s been done a zillion times. But you gotta decide, and he’s trying to have it both ways: a song for kids but also for adults. Which means you’ve got the sweet and light elements mixed with pierced elves and pseudo-heavy metal. The ingredients just don’t work together.

If you want to make chocolate chip cookies, you get busy and make ’em. If you want to bake a cheesecake, you make that. Where this video gets into trouble is trying to split the difference, meaning it doesn’t really appeal to kids or adults.

VERDICT

Points for trying something bold and risky. Demerits for not executing. But love ya anyway, Shatner–keep on singing.

BONUS VIDEO: Shatner sings ROCKET MAN

How could I not know the insane YOU DON’T KNOW by 702?

I’m an original viewer of OG MTV–which actually played music videos all the time instead of JERSEY SHORE SEASON 11: LET’S PRETEND SNOOKI AND THE SITUATION AREN’T BOTH 37 AND MARRIED, OK?.

So I take pride in knowing my weird and wonderful music videos, from the Hair Bands of the ’80s to Adam Ant and poofy shirts to Drake making roller-skating look cool again.

How could something like YOU DON’T KNOW by 702 slip past me?

It’s got everything a weird music video needs. Take a look and we’ll chat.

Taking it apart

Since I know nothing about the band 702, here’s my take:

This is one of those things that FEELS like a good idea, when you talk about it, then doesn’t work on film. 

The production values are high. The space apocalypse costumes look good, like they stole them from a movie set. The music and singing is fine, and the band looks great. 

Where does it get weird but go wrong?

First thing: The robotic dancing.

You can dance like a droid without looking like a dweeb. It is possible. Breakdancers have an entire branch where that’s their schtick, and there are amazing dancers out there.

The singers aren’t any good at it. They should have stuck to singing and leave the dancing to professional dancers.

Second thing: I kept getting the feeling a studio exec built this band from the ground up, trying to copy TLC, down to the haircuts. Could be completely wrong. Maybe TLC copied 702, for all I know, back in the paleolithic era. This is just the feeling I get without using any googling powers to divine the truth and it kept distracting me the whole time. Is this one trying to be Left Eye or Chili?

Third bit: This video keeps switching from robot space apocalypse to modern dresses and sets, which is confusing. Stick to one or the other. 

Lastly, the storyline, whatever it is, didn’t catch my interest or make any sense.

Were the singing, dancing robot people from the space apocalypse really in any danger? Why were they being chased? The song and visuals never made me care or understand.

Verdict

Weird, but not wonderfully so. Would not watch again.

The sweetness of WHEN I TASTE TEQUILA by Dan + Shay

Most music videos are meh, and I say that as a huge fan of music and music videos who grew up watching this thing we called MTV, back when it played music videos instead of insipid reality shows.

It’s hard to find videos that truly stand out, ones that I remember and want to watch again. Even if I love the song itself.

It’s doubly tough for a country music video to hit me, for I do not speak twang. 

So when I heard this song on the radio, it was a nice surprise. Then I saw the video, which is really a short film. Oh my.

Take a peek.

Haunting, isn’t it?

What stands out are the shots. Just beautiful cinematography, scenes I want to linger over. The acting is spot-on and the musicians make the smart choice of staying in the background.

What makes it truly work is telling an actual story with a beginning, middle and end. 

There are all kinds of music videos that look impressive, paired with good songs. 30 Seconds to Mars is the king of these videos, with Jared Leto having the massive advantage of being a star actor who knows how to stage and shoot film. But you don’t see complete stories very often. You see themes and ideas, but not stories where people are in conflict and make decisions.

This music videos is full of conflict and choices. It’s a sweet love story, and it fills in missing pieces you don’t see in the lyrics (below).

Great job, Dan + Shay–I’m happy to have stumbled onto this.

WHEN I TASTE TEQUILA

I can still shut down a party
I can hang with anybody
I can drink whiskey and red wine
Champagne all night
Little Scotch on the rocks and I’m fine, I’m fine
 
But when I taste tequila, baby I still see ya
Cutting up the floor in a sorority t-shirt
The same one you wore when we were
Sky high in Colorado, your lips pressed against the bottle
Swearing on a bible, baby, I’d never leave ya
I remember how bad I need ya, when I taste Tequila
When I taste Tequila
 
I can kiss somebody brand new 
And not even think about you
I can show up to the same bar
Hear the same songs in my car
Baby, your memory, it only hits me this hard
 
When I taste Tequila, baby I still see ya
Cutting up the floor in a sorority t-shirt
The same one you wore when we were
Sky high in Colorado, your lips pressed against the bottle
Swearing on a bible, baby, I’d never leave ya
I remember how bad I need ya, when I taste Tequila
When I taste Tequila
 
I ain’t even drunk, I ain’t even drunk
And I’m thinking
How I need your love, how I need your love
Yeah, it sinks in
 
When I taste Tequila, baby I still see ya
Sorority t-shirt, the same one you wore when we were
Sky high in Colorado, your lips pressed against the bottle
Swearing on a bible, baby, I’d never leave ya
I remember how bad I need ya, when I taste Tequila
When I taste Tequila
When I taste Tequila
When I taste Tequila

The Red Pen of Doom analyzes I WANT YOU TO WANT ME by Cheap Trick

As part of my ongoing mission to explore all music, and go where MTV no longer goes anymore, here’s another video: I WANT YOU TO WANT ME by Cheap Trick.

Why show this old thing from 1879 or whatever, when they had to plug their guitars into steam engines?

Three reasons why:

IT.

IS.

AWESOME.

This is a case where simple and repetitive works, because there’s a nice little pattern here with the words: “I want you to want me. I need you to need me.” And so forth. Nothing fancy. Nothing complicated. But it is inspired, and it’s the kind of song a moderately talented punk band could learn to play, you know, the kind of band that knows four chords and forgets two of them in the middle of the show after they finish off two bottles of cheap vodka.

So in that way, this thing is genius. You don’t need a degree in music to play it. You don’t need a great voice to sing it. It’s the perfect cover song, which is why so many other bands have covered it.

Also, it’s one of the few songs that sounds good live versus all auto-tuned and cleaned up in the studio. A gritty garage band can play it and fudge notes without ruining the thing.

You — yes, you — could probably do a decent job singing this thing at a karaoke bar, even if you are TOO DRUNK TO SPELL KARAOKE.

Bottom line: a simple, study, lovable song. A punk-rock deal with interesting twists in the lyrics.

I like it, I love it, I want some more of it.

Special bonus: my favorite cover of I WANT YOU TO WANT ME by Letters to Cleo. (This cover doesn’t have a music video. Somebody made one with scenes from the show CHUCK, and they did alright. Here you go.)

 

The lyrics are way, way below, just for fun. Straight-forward stuff – no need to dissect or improve these. They’re perfect. 

I WANT YOU TO WANT ME

Written by Rick Nielsen
Performed by Cheap Trick

I want you to want me.
I need you to need me.
I’d love you to love me.
I’m beggin’ you to beg me.
I want you to want me.
I need you to need me.
I’d love you to love me.

I’ll shine up my old brown shoes.
I’ll put on a brand new shirt
I’ll get home early from work
if you say that you love me.

Didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I,
see you cryin’ (cryin, cryin’).
Oh, Didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I,
see you cryin’ (cryin, cryin’)
Feelin’ all alone without a friend
you know you feel like dyin’ (dyin’, dyin’).
Oh, didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I,
see you cryin’ (cryin’, cryin’).

I want you to want me.
I need you to need me.
I’d love you to love me.
I’m beggin’ you to beg me.
I’ll shine up my old brown shoes.
I’ll put on a brand new shirt
I’ll get home early from work
if you say that you love me.

Didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I,
see you cryin’ (cryin, cryin’).
Oh, Didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I,
see you cryin’ (cryin, cryin’)
Feelin’ all alone without a friend
you know you feel like dyin’ (dyin’, dyin’).
Oh, didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I,
see you cryin’ (cryin’, cryin’).
Feelin’ all alone without a friend
you know you feel like dyin’ (dyin’, dyin’).
Oh, didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I,
see you cryin’ (cryin’, cryin’).
Feelin’ all alone without a friend
you know you feel like dyin’ (dyin’, dyin’).
Oh, didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I,
see you cryin’ (cryin’, cryin’).

I want you to want me.
I need you to need me.
I’d love you to love me.
I’m beggin’ you to beg me.

The Red Pen of Doom shoots up Train’s DRIVE BY

Here is an interesting song, and I mean “interesting” in a tragic, train-wreck sort of way.

Because it’s a decent melody by a good band with some of the WORST LYRICS EVER.

And the music video itself isn’t horrible at all. It’s fine. The words, though, they hurt me.

And I say this as a fan of Train, a man who has some of their songs and believes MEET VIRGINIA has creative lyrics for a pop song.

First up: the video, which I hope the evil known as VEVO lets you watch.

See? The song isn’t bad. The video is fine.

It’s the stupid lyrics.

Let the red ink flow.

DRIVE BY by Train

On the other side of a street I knew
Stood a girl that looked like you
I guess thats deja vu
But I thought this can’t be true
Cause you moved to west L.A or New York or Santa Fe
Or where or ever to get away from me

(OK, so far, this is alright. Nothing great, nothing horrible. The horribleness is hiding and saving its strength for an ambush.)

Oh but that one night
Was more than just right
I didn’t leave you cause I was all through
Oh I was overwhelmed and frankly scared as hell
Because I really fell for you

Oh I swear to you
I’ll be there for you
This is not a drive by

(I believe the singer — or whoever wrote these lyrics — is trying to say, “This isn’t infatuation, or a one-night stand, but something longer lasting and meaningful, possibly leading up to a white dress, a white picket fence and three years of white Pampers.” This phrase means, “A gang murders that utilizes one driver and one or more shooters, who send a wall of lethal lead at the homicide victim while making a rolling getaway from the crime.” So the message is kinda-sorta mixed. People hear this and don’t think of happy love. They think of Glocks and funerals.)

Just a shy guy looking for a two ply
Hefty bag to hold my love

(Because the only thing more romantic than a drive-by shooting is the leading national brand of garbage bags.)

When you move me everything is groovy
They don’t like it sue me
mmm the way you do me

(The bad pop trifecta: a word from the ’60s that needs to be retired, a reference to litigation and a crude reference to sex.)

Oh I swear to you
I’ll be there for you
This is not a drive by
On the upside of a downward spiral

(If he were definitely referring to NINE INCH NAILS, he’d get bonus points, but he’s not, so he doesn’t.)

My love for you went viral

(A tiny bonus point for not completing the cliche by name-dropping Facebook or Twitter.)

And I loved you every mile you drove away
But now here you are again
So let’s skip the “how you been”And 
get down to the “more than friends” at last

(“You didn’t really like me before, and you drove far, far, away, but now that you’re back, please pay attention to me as a boyfriend instead of some man you don’t really care about.” I believe that sums it up.)

Oh but that one night
Is still the highlight
I didn’t need you until I came to
and I was overwhelmed and frankly scared as hell
Because I really fell for you

Oh I swear to you
I’ll be there for you
This is not a drive by
Just a shy guy looking for a two ply
Hefty bag to hold my love
When you move me everything is groovy
They don’t like it sue me
mmm the way you do me
Oh I swear to you
I’ll be there for you
This is not a drive by

(The songwriter got ALL the bad cliches and phrases of this song into one tidy package right there. Bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam! Kind of like a emptying the clip during a drive by shooting. No. Just no.)

Please believe that when I leave
There’s nothing up my sleeve but love for you
And a little time to get my head together too

(To woo somebody, it’s not overly bright to hint that you’re not quite right in the head.) 

On the other side of a street I knew
Stood a girl that looked like you
I guess thats deja vu
But I thought this can’t be true
Cause

Oh I swear to you
I’ll be there for you
This is not a drive by
Just a shy guy looking for a two ply
Hefty bag to hold my love
When you move me everything is groovy
They don’t like it sue me
mmm the way you do me
Oh I swear to you
I’ll be there for you
This is not a drive by

(A repeat and recap of all the bad lines from before, in case we hadn’t heard them the first, second or third time.)

Bottom line

A successful band like Train probably hires songwriters for some — or a lot — of their stuff. Which is fine. You need to focus on touring, performing and shooting music videos. None of those are bad things.

The words, though, actually matter. They matter as much as the bass line, the lighting on the set and the type of leather jacket worn by the lead singer.

Spend a little more time and money on the words, because I used to hear “Train” and think of two good songs. Now, the first two things that pop into my head will be “drive-by shootings” and “Hefty bags.” Which is too bad.

A Tour De Force of ’80s Videos

If you were breathing during the ’80s, you will remember these songs and videos. If you weren’t alive, use this chance to learn about the songs coming to Classic Rock stations after they get done with their rotation of ’60s folk and ’70s disco-funk.

You may recognize some tunes from this thing they used to call the radio, which plays random songs and ads you don’t control, no matter how many buttons you push, though you could use these things called telephones to call the DJ to request a song, win prizes or try to get on live air to say something horrible, clever or horribly clever.

This era is actually important, in a musical sense, because ’80s rock and pop stars were the first to deal with music videos and MTV, so they broke a lot of ground in terms of visuals. It’s hard to go from “here’s some live footage of a concert” to “which Hollywood director should we hire for our $3 million shebang that *might* hold a candle to Thriller?”

Check it out:

The clip from Top Gun still cracks me up. How did we ever think that movie was cool?

Violins and cellos gone wild

Classical music can be a wonderful sleep aid, which is unfortunate because NPR switches from news (interesting!) to classical music right at 9 a.m., when I want to stay awake all day. Not helpful, NPR, not helpful at all.

However: These musicians prove you don’t need a guitar loud enough to shatter boulders to make good music. No. All you need is a violin–or a cello, which I’m told is a violin on steroids, but they could be lying to me–plus a whole bunch of talent.

First up is an Alaskan wunderkind, Bryson Andres, who has some kind of magical electric violin.

Second: Lindsey Stirling in an ice castle wearing an outfit that remind you of Peter Pan or an elfin extra from LORD OF THE RINGS, but maybe in a good way.

And finally, our clean-up hitter: Four British women with three electric violins and one super-powered cello, covering Led Zepellin.

Weirdest Lyrics of All Time goes to THE REFLEX by Duran Duran

Oh, you can find plenty of obscure bands who can confuse you with lyrics that make no sense, and pop singers talking about how their heart is breaking because baby, baby, baby, I love you, thought you’d always be mine.

Think I’m kidding? Hold my coffee.

The trick is finding a popular hit song by a famous band where the lyrics are completely insane.

This is where Duran Duran comes through, and not just with epic amounts of hair spray.

Check out the complete lyrics below.

I challenge and of you you to explain to me what “the reflex is” and exactly what how the reflex is “a lonely child waiting by the park” and “a door to finding treasure in the dark.”

THE REFLEX

You’ve gone too far this time
And I’m dancing on the valentine
I tell you somebody’s fooling around
With my chances on the danger line
I’ll cross that bridge when I find it
Another day
To make my stand, oh oh
High time is no time for deciding
If I should find a helping hand, oh oh
 
Why don’t you use it?
Try not to bruise it?
Buy time don’t lose it
Why don’t you use it?
Try not to bruise it?
Buy time don’t lose it
 
The reflex is a lonely child
Who’s waiting by the park
The reflex is a door to finding
Treasure in the dark
And watching over lucky clover
Isn’t that bizarre
Every little thing the reflex does
Leaves you answered with a question mark
 
I’m on a ride and I want to get off
But they won’t slow down the round-about
I sold the radio and TV set
Don’t want to be around when this gets out
 
So why don’t you use it?
Try not to bruise it?
Buy time don’t lose it
Why don’t you use it?
Try not to bruise it?
Buy time don’t lose it
 
The reflex is a lonely child
Who’s waiting in the park
The reflex is a door to finding
Treasure in the dark
And watching over lucky clover
Isn’t that bizarre
Every little thing the reflex does
Leaves you answered with a question mark
 
So why don’t you use it?
Try not to bruise it?
Buy time don’t lose it
Why don’t you use it?
Try not to bruise it?
Buy time don’t lose it
 
The reflex is a lonely child
Who’s waiting by the park
The reflex is a door to finding
Treasure in the dark
And watching over lucky clover
Isn’t that bizarre
Every little thing the reflex does
Leaves you answered with a question mark
 
Oh the reflex what a game 
He’s hiding all the cards
The reflex is in charge of finding
Treasure in the dark
And watching over lucky clover
Isn’t that bizarre
Every little thing the reflex does