RICO SUAVE by Gerardo shows the power of silly fun

A classic one-hit wonder, RICO SUAVE shows off the massive music-video firepower of being completely fun.

We’re not talking lyrics as literature here, and this music video isn’t amazing in any single area. Gerardo isn’t exactly Bruno Mars in terms of world-class singing, acting and dancing talent.

However: None of that matters, because the whole video is flat-out fun. He’s plenty good at dancing and truly talented when it comes to transmitting the emotion that, “I’m having a good time, and so should you.”

That’s a valuable skill when most rock, pop and rap stars are busy trying to look brooding, emo and/or tough.

Fun works. That’s what people want.

So here’s to you, Gerardo, who I see became and A & R exec at a record company. I still remember this video because it’s a classic four minutes and fifteen seconds of unfiltered joy.

The Avalanches get weird with FRONTIER PSYCHIATRIST

OK, I have seen music videos from around the world.

Mediocre videos of singers dancing around.

Miniature movies, with actual acting and production values.

And then there are videos like these that are just flat-out weird.

It’s interesting, but only in a “Let’s drink coffee at Denny’s until five in the morning with my friend who’s an art teacher and his girlfriend, the philosophy professor, as we try to divine the deeper meanings of this thing.”

I’m not sure there really is a deeper meaning to this video and song. But yeah, this one is different enough to be special.

The Hoff massacres HOOKED ON A FEELING

The ingredients to this do not bode well:

  1. A well-known, slightly annoying song even when it’s played correctly in trailers for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
  2. David Hasselhoff
  3. Some director who just discovered green screen effects and has spent all weekend teaching himself Adobe Premiere Pro

And yes, when you mix it all together, it looks and tastes like a dumpster fire.

A love of cheesiness and a lack of singing chops hasn’t stopped the Hoff from having an actual singing career in Germany.

No one understands how or why this has happened. Rock on, Deutschland.

Bonus: a live version with backup dancers who were not paid nearly enough money to participate.

Georgie Dann has talent, so why is PALOMA BLANCA so amazingly awful?

A big part of it has to be the actual talent on screen.

I’m not kidding. There’s wasted potential all over the place: the singer is obviously a pro, and it’s not his first rodeo. He’s smooth and good and the song isn’t terrible in itself.

The dancers are also clearly professionals hired to do a job, and they’ve rehearsed this thing. We’re not talking about an amateur singer who bribed in his cousin to shoot the thing on his camcorder while some neighbors dressed up and pretended to be backup dancers. Check out the costumes–they put time and money into this.

Topping it off: there’s some serious 1978 version of green screen special effects happening in the background during most of this video, and I can’t think of one use of the green screen thing that didn’t make things intensely weird.

So if you heard this song on the radio, now or back in 1978, you wouldn’t think much about it. Good voice, decent song.

It’s the visuals of this video that make it cray-cray.

My favorite is how the dancers really get into pretending to be a bird before they hopped on their bird motorcycle, put on a Fonz leather jacket and truly jumped the shark by throwing one of the dancers in the air, time after time, as he flaps his wings.

Verdict: I’ve seen this thing three times and it still makes me (a) laugh, (b) cringe and (c) wonder if Georgie Dann ever got a competent director for his stuff, because I bet he’d nail it.

Ed Sheeran gets his Fight Club on with SHAPE OF YOU

Unlike other pop stars who find a formula and stick with it, Ed Sheeran tends to experiment with his music videos.

He’s done every sort you could think of: concert footage, ballroom dancing videos, mini-films, mini-documentaries, the works.

PHOTOGRAPH, in particular, does a beautiful job of matching up home videos from when he’s young and older. Rewatch it and you’ll spot him wearing headphones (or a pirate costume) as a young pookie and again later when he’s a teenager or adult. That took time and effort.

This latest video is interesting. Some thoughts:

  1. Ed is realistically bad at boxing in the beginning, but he’s not over-acting here. Good show, and it pays off later.
  2. Shocking number of tattoos. Had no idea.
  3. The female lead is clearly a great athlete and, it turns out, a good actor.
  4. Their meet-cute is nice, and the arc of their relationship, in just a few minutes of film, feels right. You want them to succeed as a couple.
  5. Ed clearly did serious time in the gym for this and really worked at boxing. You see it in the middle to end. Well played.
  6. The ending fight is goofy, but it works. And the closing image, of the woman doing a great leaping kick, rocks.

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5. Well done, start to finish.

How U2 turns WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME into an event and PR stunt

It’s a beautiful, timeless song–one of my all-time favorites–by a beautiful, timeless band.

And they way they released this video helped make them breakout stars.

So what’s unique about this music video?

There are three main forms in this genre: (1) backup dancers galore, (2) mini-movies and (3) “the band plays while cameras roll.” Filming a band as they play, in a studio or a concert, is the most basic type of music video.

What U2 did that made this video go viral was simple and elegant: make it real while making people curious.

With a dance video, you know what will happen: singing and dancing.

With a mini-movie, there’s a little story, but it won’t last more than 3 to 5 minutes, and you know that nothing in the short bit of film will actually affect the real life of the singer and band members. There’s an extra layer of make-believe that creates distance. And there’s also the fact that few rock and pop stars are also great actors.

With “the band plays while cameras roll,” there’s a serious lack of surprise. They’re going to play a song you’ve heard on the radio. Maybe it’ll be in concert, maybe it’ll be lip-syncing on a Hollywood studio. That’s about it.

U2 created a public event–a free concert in a big city–and made you wonder: will the cops shut it down?

And you do wonder. It truly looks like the cops will shut this down.

This makes you root for the band. They’re trying to give fans something for free. People are coming from all over to listen while the police close in.

The structure of this lets this be a longer video, with more setup before the song, building up suspense before releasing it.

That’s what makes this so effective. There are heroes and villains, with the audience rooting for the band their fans against the authorities.

And nothing says rock-and-roll more than rebelling against the System with the amplifiers turned up to 11.

Verdict: I still listen to this song and have never gotten sick of it. Great band. Great song. Great video.

Housekeeping note: Redesigned the blog and went through just about every old post (400-some) to edit, improve or archive them. Shout if you have suggestions or ideas, and thanks for reading.

HALLELUJAH by Kate McKinnon, who is just killing it

I’m not alone in adoring Kate McKinnon’s impression of Hillary Clinton during the campaign, though Alec Baldwin’s job as Trump got more attention.

This song, though, hit me hard. Who knew she could play piano and sing? (If you don’t know the song, it’s by Leonard Cohen, who just died.)

Capping it off? Her lines after the song is over, when you can she’s choked up. Appropriate for our times.

Though she does a great Clinton (below), she also does spot-on impressions of Justin Bieber, Ellen DeGeneres and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

So she can act and sing. If she could dance, McKinnon would be a triple threat.

Yeah, she can dance.

Kate the McKinnon, please keep on doing what you do and we won’t give up.

Why MELANIANADE is peak SNL and brilliant comedy

Music has never been more competitive. A good music video adds another layer of difficulty–and when you add comedy–the hardest thing of all–then it’s no wonder that truly funny music videos are rare.

Your typical parody video looks cheap and takes easy shots at the artist who made it. Weird Al Yancovic has been the king of parody videos for precisely the opposite reason: he knows poking fun of the singer or band will only go so far, so he takes a song and twists it to make fun of something entirely different, like when he used American Pie to rip on Star Wars.

Comedy is hard because it speaks to painful truths. Cheap, easy laughs aren’t deep. The deeper the pain, the more truth gets revealed.

This video works because the cast of SNL clearly put a lot of time and effort into it. They committed, absolutely, and didn’t hold back.

James Corden did something similar with his Lemonjames video. Take a look:

Corden is making fun of himself, and his industry, more than he’s taking shots at Beyoncé.

The quality of both these videos, in how well they’re shot and edited, may seem like an irrelevant point for comedians. Why waste so much time and effort making the lighting, costumes and settings so perfect.?

Except it’s not a waste of time. Chances are, most people have seen the original video. A cheap knock-off that’s badly shot and uses thrown-together sets and locations will keep dragging you out of it. Instead of noticing the jokes, you’ll get distracting with how amateurish things look compared to the real video–and these days, music videos are expensive affairs, often shot by moonlighting Hollywood professionals. So the bar is high.

These two videos leap over that bar of quality, letting you focus entirely on the comedy.

Well done, SNL and James the Corden–give us more, more, more.

SALSA TEQUILA is a classic parody turned accidental hit

Norwegian comic Anders Nilsen isn’t a world-class musician. He tells jokes.

And I bet you my house he didn’t set out to make this a hit song in Europe (or to have it blow up Reddit in 2016). This is a parody, a little joke he wanted to do. My favorite line: “Antonio Banderas.”

It reminds me of the Italian singer/comic who made an entire song of what English singing sounds like to non-English speakers. I did a post about this song a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, but here’s the video itself, because it’s epically entertaining. How did he get so many extras to play along?

Then there’s this video, made by two brothers by their brother who’s getting married, that’s a dead-on parody of ’80s pop.

Back to Norwegian comics: the brothers who did WHAT DID THE FOX SAY? are so good at parody music videos, they do them all the time now.

So what is it about these music videos that make them so fun?

I believe the secret sauce is authenticity.

When you’re a musician trying to pay the bills, you dream about a hit single. You push hard for it. You’re serious, focused and driven. This is your life, your dream.

A comedian or amateur just playing around is doing it for fun. The success or failure of your parody song won’t affect whether you make the mortgage payment next month. There’s far less pressure.

That lack of pressure lets people take bold risks like this–and perhaps more importantly, to be loose and relaxed. To have fun.

That’s the overwhelming sense I get from parody music videos that’s often lacking in Genuine Music Videos By Serious Musicians, who often forget the fun while aiming at high art. Or by rockers, rappers and pop stars trying too hard to show off how edgy and cool they are.

Trying too hard is never cool or fun.

So props to the comedians, amateurs and others out there making parody music videos simply because they can. You’re adding something real to the art of music videos, which will only get more and more important as text gets replaced on the Interwebs by video, video–and, for variety, more video. Text is so 1994.