And now for something completely different — THIS IS AMERICA by Childish Gambino

Listen: I grew up watching music videos, back when we had this thing called MTV, which played music videos 25 hours a day, eight days a week.

So there isn’t much that shocks or impresses me, seeing how 99 percent of music videos fall into these categories:

(1) Solo divas belting away while backup dancers go crazy

(2) Boy bands lip-syncing while dancing like crazy

(3) Metal bands in black-and-white videos, trying to look tough, no smiling allowed

(4) Concert videos with screaming, adoring fans

(5) Artistic mini-movies that only prove singers should sing and actors should act

This video is something truly different. Donald Glover can act, sing and dance–and while he’s making a number of political statements in this video, none of them are on-the-nose. You have to rewatch this video three or four times to catch them all, including imagery from GET OUT.

Here, take a look and a listen:

Glover debuted this song live when he hosted SNL, and did a nice job there, too.

VERDICT: I’m shocked and impressed. A tricky thing, trying to send a powerful message through a song and music video without bonking your audience over the head with that message. Pretty easy to be far too heavy or way too subtle. Glover threads the needle with skill and care. I want to see more of his work now, and it’s easy to see why this video has gone beyond viral.

This one chart cuts through the heart of EVERY MUSICAL GENRE

So on Mondays, when the mood is right and the coffee is hot, I dissect music videos on this silly blog–half because it’s fun and half because you can learn a lot from taking apart a 3-minute video.

This chart does a beautiful job of taking a scalpel and slicing right through the heart every major musical genre. It is merciless, it is brutal and there is no escape. Even better: there’s a lot of truth in here. Because the secret of humor is revealing painful truths.

every music genre

Great job, John the Atkinson of Wrong Hands–please give us more charts like this.

As a bonus, here’s a music video that we’re looping endlessly: NO ROOTS by Alice Martin, a great song in part because it’s completely different. I can’t shoe-horn her song into pop, blues or punk. And that’s a good thing.

Kygo and Selena Gomez bring it with IT AIN’T ME

As I drive MANY MILES each day, and listen to this thing they used to call the radios, it’s like a blind taste-test for music. You usually don’t know the name of the singer or band, so your reactions are honest.

My reaction to this song on the radio was “play that again.” Put a gun to my head and I would’ve sworn this was some kind of European electro-dance thing, and the singer was maybe somebody like Ellie Goulding.

So it was a shock to learn Selena Gomez sings it. It’s a cut off the new album by Kygo, a Norwegian musical genius.

Let’s take apart why the video works so well with the song.

You care, right away

The trouble with most of music videos is there’s no attempt at making us feel, because the musicians are too busy trying to look cool, tough, rich and/or glamorous while singing about themselves. Nothing is really at stake and there’s no story told, so there’s no reason for the audience to care. It’s just a song, no matter how much gets spent on directors, dancers and the set.

This video has two characters you can relate two, right off, and an actual story with real stakes. You feel bad for this young man in a coma after the motorcycle crash, and you sympathize with the young woman sticking by his side at the hospital. You want him to be OK and for them to be together again.

The inner POV is trippy and beautiful

Loved it when the video switches to the point of view of the man in a coma.

They got truly creative with what it might be like to be trapped in your own body, aware but not awake. The lighting and effects are creative and well done. Impressive.

Genuine setups and payoffs leading to a beautiful ending

There’s a real sense of joy when she starts dancing and puts the headphones on her boyfriend. There’s a contagious sense of joy when she dances in spite of the situation. You can see in his inner POV that he hears the music, that he’s dancing, too, giving you hope that maybe he’ll make it and wake up.

It’s a great bit if storytelling with song that builds up to a classic closing image of him opening his eyes.

 

One final note about the costumes: this is the opposite of most videos, where singers try to show off insane outfits or as much skin as possible. They use crazy costumes for the inner POV sequences, which fits, then everyday outfits for the real life scenes. I was far more impressed with the simple joy of a singer rocking out in T-shirt and jeans, in this video, than all fancy choreography, skimpy costumes and backup dancers you find in other videos. Well done.

Verdict:

A creative music video with a great song and an actual story with a beginning, middle and end. The dream sequences are a special bonus.

TL;DR: I have seen many, many music videos, and this one is special. 10/10 would watch again.

 

 

SALUT SALON gives us a musical clinic and a giant dose of joy

Who says classic music is boring?

These four women prove that technical talent can combine with humor. They could’ve played this normally, and nobody but music professors would care about the difference in the quality of the music. This way is just far, far more entertaining for the audience. And for the musicians, too.

I’d bet my house those smiles aren’t fake. Not a bit. These four musicians are clearly having a blast goofing off like this. Their joy is contagious.

Good on you, Salut Salon–thanks for being this creative and having the guts to be silly in a serious business.

Taking apart the expensive disaster of LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO by Taylor Swift

I come here to praise Taylor Swift, not to bury her CGI zombie corpse.

Though I’m neither superfan nor hater, I have to say she did some great music videos early in her career. YOU BELONG TO ME is excellent. BACK TO DECEMBER is pretty good.

This music video is a step backward, an expensive mess that shows T-Swift has fully evolved from a Scrappy Young Talent Who Just Hit It Big all the way to a Establishment Megastar With More Mansions Than She Can Remember.

Yes, the production values are great. Fans will watch the heck out of this just for the spectacle.

HOWEVER: It doesn’t make you feel anything.

At all.

And that’s the acid test for a music video.

Do you laugh?

Do you feel joy, or anger?

Do you cry?

That’s because whether you intend to or not, every song tells a story. A music video is supposed to help tell that story.

Songs don’t give you a lot of words to do the job. It takes discipline and talent to do it right. 

The Dixie Chicks can spend 200 words to tell a full story that makes you full of sorrow (TRAVELING SOLDIER) or righteously angry (GOODBYE, EARL).

Taylor can do this, too. She has the talent to tell a story and make you feel. One of her first big hits did this perfectly. It’s even in the title.

Here’s where this new video goes wrong, despite all the money spent–reportedly, $12 million in diamonds was used for that bath scene.

What story is she telling, and how does it make us feel?

In her best songs and videos, Taylor’s telling a story about somebody else, somebody we can all relate to, and that makes us feel for the protag. YOU BELONG TO ME is about a high school girl, something of a loser, with a crush on a neighbor boy. People get that. Whether you’re male or female, we’ve all been through awkward years in junior high or high school. It’s easy to feel for the girl she’s singing about, and to root for that underdog. You want her to get the boy and it’s a great moment when they both show up to the dance together.

In this video, Taylor’s clearly talking about herself, and the point of the song is to strike back at perceived rivals.

It’s hard for non-billionaires to feel sympathy for celebrities with hurt feelings. No matter how good the song is (and it’s not that good compared to her best) and how much they spent making this video, you can’t force people to feel sorry for a young, pretty woman who makes more money in a week than most people will make in their lifetime.

What are the stakes?

 

Just like books and movies, songs can have low stakes or high stakes, personal stakes and public stakes.

They can be about whether love rules the day or love forever lost. War or peace, injustice or redemption.

The stakes here are extremely low. Oh, Taylor is so upset (at Katy Perry or whoever, I honestly don’t care and neither should you) that she crashed a car that costs more than your house while a a cheetah served as her copilot. With her car trashed, will she be unable to get to work in the morning and lose her job? Does it matter in the slightest? No. She may have to tell her staff to gas up the Ferrari, or the Bentley, or one of however many dozen cars she owns. People will clean up the mess while she goes off and trashes one of her jets and rounds up an army of cloned robots or whatever to assault the compound of P-Diddy or whoever she’s mad at this week.

Basically, I can’t make myself care, and yes, I tried. Really hard.

What’s the impact of the song and video?

The best songs and music videos stick with you. AMERICAN PIE was about an entire era, and half the fun was trying to decipher the lyrics. Even if you didn’t get every line, you got the message about how America was changing. It sticks with you.

EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE is about love turning into obsession, and the video is stark black-and-white. I wouldn’t change a thing.

When I first heard LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO on the radio, I swore it was Britney Spears.

Not kidding. Feels like mid-stage Britney, after she’d made it big, and started doing over-the-top stuff like this:

Verdict: Sure, the production values and budget is sky high, but the entertainment value is meh and the feels generated are zero. 10/10 would not watch again.

If the old Taylor Swift is dead, and the new T-Swift is busy being obsessed with her hurt feelings and celebrity beefs, let’s resurrect the old Taylor Swift–the one focused on songs that aren’t about her. I’d happily listen and watch that singer.

Carly Rae Jepsen + NIN = WIN

This is brilliant. Watch, then let’s chat about it.

So, I’ve grown up with music videos, with this thing in the ’80s and ’90s we called MTV playing them 24/7 before demented studio execs decided a channel devoted to music videos by the most talented singers and bands in the world made far, far too much sense.

Why not should switch gears and move away from that so-called entertainment? What does U2, Bruce Springsteen or Lady Gaga know about showing people a good time? Devote your airtime to human train wrecks with shows like Jersey Shore, where a grown man actually ordered pizza on the phone and, when asked for his name, told the pizza place it was “Situation.”

My favorite bit is the pizza man, Who Is Not Having It, giving post-post-modern MTV its first and last flirtation with what I like to call “the real world,” except not in capital letters because it isn’t a fake show with fake people in fake situations.

Therefore: hat tip to my sister for finding this, and kudos to the creative soul who took the time to stitch together this mashup of Carly Rae and NIN–this is an expertly timed masterpiece.

Well done. You have talent and a great ear for mixing two very different songs. Give us more, por favor.

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.

Top 5 reasons why GO 4 IT by Corey Feldman is so bad, it circles back to good

corey feldman dancing and singing

corey feldman dancing and singing

Corey Feldman’s live performance on the TODAY show was supposed to be a big opening for his new album, Angelic to the Core, and yes, that is punny.

You may remember Corey from his career as a child actor: The Goonies, Gremlins, Stand By Me, The Lost Boys and five zillion other movies and TV shows.

But now, he’s going to be remembered for this performance on live national television.

Reason No. 5: The Angels

There are two real choices in the big, famous music scene: a real band where everybody contributes–or a famous singer with a rotating cast of backup musicians and dancers.

Corey at least is trying to give his backup musicians a theme and identity. It’s just not quite right, as if he watched some Robert Palmer and decided to run with that theme, except all they had at the Party Store were some angel wings and sexy nurse costumes.

Continue reading “Top 5 reasons why GO 4 IT by Corey Feldman is so bad, it circles back to good”

The five greatest cover songs of all time

As a fan of music, and music videos, I applaud the decision by MTV to start a new channel that actually plays music videos instead of reality TV shows about teen moms, Snooki, random people forced to be roommates in different cities for no reason season after season, Rob Kardashian’s second cousin–or whatever other nonsense they’re making reality shows about today.

Music is universally good, and music videos are an art form that should be shared and enjoyed by all.

This post is also a bit of counter-programming now that the author of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY is putting out yet another sequel to a book that should never have been written (here’s my review/epic takedown of that literary monstrosity: The Red Pen of Doom impales FIFTY SHADES OF GREY). To celebrate music videos, here are the five greatest cover songs of all time, with the original artist versus their imposter in a battle royale.

Also: I have been crazy busy, which is a post for another day, but yes, I’m still breathing and will try to post more. Have missed it.

The Man Who Sold the World – original by David Bowie, cover by Nirvana

Twist and Shout – original by The Top Notes, cover by some band from Liverpool

I Will Always Love You – original by Dolly Parton (with special bonus, Burt Reynolds and his mustache!), cover by Whitney Houston (special bonus: Kevin Costner as a tough guy with zero mustache at all)

Nothing Compares to U – original by The Family (really, Prince), cover by Sinead O’Connor (because Prince said so)

Hurt – original by Nine Inch Nails vs cover by Johnny Cash

Or you could just have Ariana Grande cover everything by everybody.

What do you think? Vote in the poll or post a witty comment explaining how I’m musically wrong about everything musical.

2016 craziness leads to brilliant and funny music videos

Now, this fake Japanese commercial for Trump is spot-on and hilarious. But the seriousness and inevitably silliness of a campaign that started out with 20+ candidates and now has our first reality TV star as a nominee, well, you’re going to get more than one video from that.

Here’s Obama singing Rihanna’s WORK.

And here’s brother Bernie belting out POWER by Kanye.

Hillary and Barack team up for TIMBER by Pitbull.

It takes skill to create these videos. I think they work because of the high contrast between the highest politicians in the land and low-brow pop songs. The more banal the pop song, and the harder it is to figure out the lyrics (love Rihanna, but nobody understands what she’s singing in WORK), the more funny the video is.

The original Serious Footage Turned Into Song, though, is still the best: Brian Williams absolutely nails RAPPER’S DELIGHT.

DANCE OFF by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis opens with … Idris Elba!

Does it get any better than Idris Elba?

No. No, it does not.

This is another solid music video by Macklemore, who’s smart for (a) giving Ryan Lewis co-billing, (b) constantly trying new things with music videos and (c) now experimenting with a different kind of tour.

Instead of doing the smart thing in terms of economics, which is to tour giant cities playing in giant arenas to maximize profits, Macklemore’s latest tour is completely local, with gigs in tiny venues around his home state of Washington.

He’s coming to my little county, to Olympia, Spokane, all over.

And tickets are cheap ($21 or so) instead of the usual $100+ for a big name like Macklemore.

This is pure fan service, in the best way possible.

There aren’t many international music stars who’d chose to make less money by playing to small crowds in small towns.

Thank you, Macklemore—though the concerts in my backyard are sold out (they all sold out, statewide), I know my friends and neighbors are excited that you’re doing this.

Student makes insanely great 007-style musical opener for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

007 intro to empire strikes back

Star Wars – Episode V “The Empire Strikes Back” Homage (Title Sequence) from KROFL on Vimeo.

This is a special kind of music video: a blockbuster title sequence song, made famous by the James Bond movies, though you see them with other big-budget monsters.

Except this one was created by college student Kurt Rauffer, who should immediately pack a suitcase, get on a metal tube filled with explosives and fly to Hollywood, where they’ll give him stacks of green paper to work this magic for IRON MAN 4: ROBERT DOWNEY, JR. CHEWS ALL THE SCENERY.

The music is a piece Radiohead recorded for a Bond movie (but wasn’t used), so yeah, it’s perfect.

More perfect: the tone and graphics are spot-on. Couldn’t improve upon this if we tried.

Well played, Kurt the Rauffer, if that’s your real name. Give is moar moar MOAR.

Jimmy with the Good Hair

lemon james

James Corden didn’t forget the funny here. He fully committed: great cinematography, great writing and pacing. The whole package.

That’s the secret to comedy: you have to close your eyes and step off the top of a ten-story building. A little hop off the curb doesn’t do it. Comedy works through extremes.

Stephen Colbert did something similar with his Stephenade bit.

Now, Colbert is a genius, among the best in the world at monologues and interviews. Love him. But this was mildly amusing compared to Corden’s masterpiece.

Why?

Colbert did a sort of SNL-skit version of the idea: let’s take a baseball bat and smash things in slow motion. It was a quick, one-trick thing, and just like a SNL skit, taking it longer wouldn’t work.

Corden went big. You can tell they put time and effort into it. You or I could’ve grabbed a bat and smashed things like Colbert.

Jimmy Fallon fully committed, too, with his frame-by-frame version of Too Much Time on My Hands by Styx.

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

Here’s the original. I hit play on both and with only a little fiddling with pause & restart, they matched up exactly.

These two late-night comics prove that the music video isn’t dead–and that comedy doesn’t have to involve f-bombs and gross-out jokes.

SO WHAT’CHA WANT by the Beastie Boys is even better with muppets

The real question isn’t whether adding muppets improves this song. The question is why muppets make it insanely great.

Here’s my theory: contrast always works, and using muppets maximizes the contrast and irony.

This is why every other pop song by a diva has a guest rapper, the gruffer the better. And, shockingly, a lot of gruff rappers feature smooth singers to handle the chorus and even things out. It works both ways.

The muppet verions of classic rock songs never get old because you couldn’t find images that are less hard core and unthreatening. Nobody is afraid of muppets. Teletubbies, now, are trippy if not creepy.

Ariana Grande blows up Saturday Night Live

There are stretches of time where Saturday Night Live forgets the funny.

And there are guest stars who fail to shine, or twinkle before they explode like a supernova the moment they attempt to act.

This is not one of those times.

Ariana Grande nails this skit. Just kills it. I can’t think of another singer who can imitate others so well. Later on, she does a killer Jennifer Lawrence impression.

Well played, Ariana the Grande–come back to SNL and give us more.

Bonus content, if you haven’t seen it: Adam Driver on SNL as Kylo Ren, Undercover Boss.

SUNRISE by the Olson Bros, Donald Trump and the power of authenticity

SUNRISE by Olson Bros

Good stuff, right? I’m not a country fan, and I’ve played this song a zillion times.

You probably haven’t heard of the Olson Bros, which is the point of the post: there’s all kinds of buried talent out there, even if they’ve won a national songwriting contest.

I saw the Olson brothers (and they are real-life brothers) at their first show at Savory Faire, and they’ve gotten better every year. Saw them again this weekend at Charlie’s, and they’re great live.

These are local college kids who’ve practiced hard. The giant bull they use as a stands on a field in Mud Bay on the way to Olympia.

Here’s the deal: The great thing about the Series of Tubes is there’s so much stuff out there, you can find whatever you like. The horrible thing about the Series of Tubes is there’s so much stuff out there, it’s crazy hard to separate the brilliant from the banal.

That’s why name ID and PR are so important. It’s why people with zero talent (Snooki, the Situation, the Kardashians) make millions while great musicians, artists and writers toil away, thinking talent is all that matters. If they’re good enough, people will notice.

Except the real formula is Artistic Talent x Publicity Skill Squared.

Donald Trump is proving the effectiveness of great publicity in the presidential race. He doesn’t know a thing about foreign policy or the Federal Reserve and it doesn’t matter right now, because he’s far better at PR than Jeb! and the others running, even after Jeb! wasted $24 million on ads in Iowa and New Hampshire.

This is why real press coverage (earned media) is still hugely important. Trump hasn’t had to respond to the Jeb! advertising assault. Why? Because every day, Trump is getting far more than $24 million in free media coverage by picking fights and saying outrageous things.

HOWEVER: Social media gives me hope.

There’s so much advertising today it’s becoming white noise to people. I thought there couldn’t be more ads on TV than during the 2008 presidential campaign, then 2012 proved me wrong. Billions of dollars will blanket the airwaves in 2016.

My prediction is they’ll run out of ad slots. Karl Rove will have to buy a struggling TV shopping network and split it into three just to find airtime.

Mainstream media and social media are a counterweight this advertising juggernaut. And I think social media’s power is growing. It’s more authentic and powerful to hear your friends and family say, “That band rocks, see them live” or “Buy IMAX tickets to that new movie, don’t wait for Netflix” instead of getting told that from paid announcer on a TV ad.

To get technical, the ethos of journalists and social media is strong, because these are people you know, trust and who don’t have a self-interest in the outcome. The reverse is true for random advertisements: you don’t know them, don’t trust them and they want your money.

So the Olson Bros did the right thing by making a good music video on a shoestring budget. I don’t need a slick music video that cost $850,000 and took a week to shoot on a Nashville set. The music is great and the visuals match. The energy and enthusiasm of the Olson brothers feels real.

There are some things you can’t buy.