Billy Squire wrecks his career with ROCK ME TONITE

music video meme sound of music

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.

MISSING YOU by John Waite teaches us all about subtext

music video meme sound of music

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.

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.

NOVEMBER RAIN rocks out for an epic nine minutes

music video meme sound of music

These days, Axl Rose is just another rock star who fell off the top. He’s trying to claw his way back up, and yes, taking 5.923 billion years to produce your big solo album, which lands with a thud, isn’t the way to do it.

So I say this not as a fan of Axl Rose, but as a hard-core skeptic: NOVEMBER RAIN is a masterpiece.

No question. Start to finish, it’s brilliant.

Everything comes together: the orchestra, Axl on the piano, Slash wailing on his axe, the drums, it’s all clear as a bell rather than the mush you get with some bands today that’s less Wall of Sound and more I Can’t Tell Which Instruments Are Playing.

Each major instrument gets left to do their part, even the piccolo-whatever, which fits in perfectly.

And yes, this video clocks in at 9-plus minutes but you don’t care, because it is telling a story that fits the music.

Well shot. Well produced. Perfectly put-together. Axl, I salute you and hope you put this on an endless loop in your mansion for six straight days until you get inspired to try something as ambitious, and good, as this.

SAFETY DANCE by Men Without Hats is insanely classic

music video meme sound of music

This has every element you could possibly want from an ’80s music video:

(1) a thumping synth beat,

(2) a lead singer with a vague accent (Montreal!) who looks like Adam Ant’s less insane cousin,

(3) some kind of ren-fair Hobbity goodness instead of the usual music video of the band preening while they lip-synch and pretend to play instruments,

(4) the best band name I’ve heard in forever, PLUS

(5) as a special bonus packed chock full of irony, nobody, not even the friends of the lead singer who professes his love for dancing, can dance a lick.

I won’t include all the lyrics, because they’re not that complicated or subtle. There’s nothing to interpret here.

HOWEVER: It’s worth dissecting the four lines everybody knows.

We can dance if we want to
We can leave your friends behind
‘Cause your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance
Well they’re no friends of mine

Those lines are so easy to remember because they’re well-built, structurally. The first two lines start the same — “We can” — and have seven syllables exactly. The singer isn’t talking about himself, but “we,” and he gets the audience involved more by making you think of “your friends.”

All the ideas come together. You’ve got three lines of setup for the payoff in the fourth line. It’s short, it’s simple and instead of using rhymes (none of these lines rhyme), the singer links the lines together using concepts and repetition. A nice little interweaving that pays off.

A random duet turns out to be awesomesauce

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Kristin Chenoweth likes to do something few performers dare: grab somebody random from the audience and perform a duet.

This can be funny, or so bad it’s good, like karaoke writ large with a big pop star and an audience of 20,000 instead of 14 guys at the Elks Lodge.

In this case, Chenoweth got a shock when Sarah Horn answered the call to “who knows the words to For Good from Glinda?”

Another musical invasion from the UK: Jessie Ware’s WILDEST MOMENTS

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So this Jessie Ware, if you haven’t heard of her, is talented and different and old school mates with some singer named Adele and some other singer named Florence, as in Florence and the Machine.

If you like music, and music videos, you’ll like what she does here.

Many, many rock and pop stars tend to make videos that all look the same, and I mean that both ways: every video they make looks like (a) every other video they’ve ever made and (b) every other video made by similar artists. This has been true since Hair Bands put on their first pair of spandex pants in 1982 and will be true forever.

Jessie the Ware tries something different every time, and here she tries something simple and stark and interesting: just her, a plain background and a swiveling chair.

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

Walk Off the Earth blows up GRENADE by Bruno Mars

music video meme sound of music

So I’ve found this genius band from the big honking nation known as Canada — which has provinces where you could fit Texas and Alaska inside and still have room for most European counties — and while WOTE is getting radio airplay know for Red Hands, they’ve done a zillion covers. Here’s the thing: those covers are often better than the originals.

Related: RED HANDS by Walk Off the Earth is music video goodness

Here’s one member of WOTE doing Bruno Mars, all by his lonesome. And he’s just messing around with a loop machine in his guest bedroom or whatever. Brilliant.

The original by Bruno the Mars:

Related posts: Music Video Monday’s Greatest Hits

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This is Guy Bergstrom the writer, not the Guy Bergstrom in Stockholm or the guy in Minnesota who sells real estate or whatever. Separate guys. Kthxbai.
Guy Bergstrom. Photo by Suhyoon Cho.

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

DON’T YOU WANT ME by The Human League

This is one of the first music videos to feature some sort of story.

You know, a plot instead of (a) the lead singer emoting into the microphone while (b) the rest of the band pretends to play their instruments for the 45th time until (c) the director finally calls it good.

Because this is a piece of epic music history, 12 years from now, somebody will write their doctoral thesis on it. If you are that person, please research whether the female lead’s hairdo was an accidental homage to Princess Diana or totally on purpose. Kthxbai.

ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN by Elle Goulding is completely bonkers

I have heard this song on the radios, and over the Series of Tubes through some kind of Pandora magic, though Pandora is missing her Box for some reason.

HOWEVER: The point is, this song by Elle the Goulding is interesting plus the video is craaazy.

Which is good.

Because the last thing the world needs is another boring music video where (a) the band rocks out on stage while playing their guitars and such, because that has NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE, or (b) the singer pretends to sing while doing a choreographed dance number with 592 backup dancers and 17 costume changes.

I give Elle the Goulding bonus points for trying something different.

Simple and impressive: The Finnish Whistler

Now, I enjoy dissecting the lyrics of insane music videos, such as ICE, ICE BABY — but once and a great while, there’s a music video that comes out of nowhere, like a burly mountain man stomping through town with a giant axe on his shoulder and a hankering for Insane Amounts of Flapjacks — and this is one such video that surprised and amused me.

Also, it has no lyrics to dissect at all, unless I speak bird. Which I don’t. If you can translate, go for it.

Also-also: This would be a perfect song for some kind of spaghetti Western starring Clint Eastwood, though I mean the younger version of about 30 years ago, before he starting picking fights with empty chairs.

HO HEY by The Lumineers

music video meme sound of music

This is a simple little song with a simple little video that still manages to ROCK THE HOUSE.

Also, I don’t really hear much of a difference between the Ho! and the Hey! parts, but hey, that’s artistic license and such.

Also-also: There’s something of a trend of Mumford and Son types, musicians wearing suspenders while playing folksy rock that involves (a) a banjo, (b) a bass and (c) harmonicas or whatever.

This is a good thing, though it will certainly snowball into some kind of trend where record executives start signing up folks bands with accordians instead of amplifiers faster than an aspiring writer can tell you about their YA series that is NOT inspired — they swear — by Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, because they have a school of witches, not wizards, and the zombies show up on page 392.

Also-cubed: As for the controversy over whether The Lumineers (original band name: The Night Lights) are singing “You’re my sweetheart” or “You’re my sweet home” — the answer is, “sweet heart.”

Here’s the video. Watch it. DO IT NOW, because YouTube / the Google needs your clicks and money or whatever before their stock starts doing the Facebook nosedive.

For word nerds around the world, the lyrics:

(Ho!) I’ve been trying to do it right
(Hey!) I’ve been living a lonely life
(Ho!) I’ve been sleeping here instead
(Hey!)I’ve been sleeping in my bed,
(Ho!) sleeping in my bed (Hey!)
(Ho!)

(Ho!) So show me family
(Hey!) Or the blood that I would bleed
(Ho!) I don’t know where I belong
(Hey!) I don’t know where I went wrong
(Ho!) But I can write a song
(Hey!)

I belong with you, you belong with me
You’re my sweetheart
I belong with you, you belong with me
You’re my sweet

(Ho!)
(Hey!)
(Ho!)
(Hey!)

(Ho!) I don’t think you’re right for him
(Hey!) Leave the world it might have been
(Ho!) Took a bus to china town
(Hey!) I’ll be standing on canal
(Ho!) And bowery (hey!)
(Ho!) She’d be standing next to me (hey!)

I belong with you, you belong with me
You’re my sweetheart
I belong with you, you belong with me
You’re my sweetheart

And love, we need it now
Let’s hope for some
Cause oh, we’re bleeding out

I belong with you, you belong with me
You’re my sweetheart
I belong with you, you belong with me
You’re my sweetheart

(Hey!)
(Ho!)
(Hey!)

TAKE A WALK by Passion Pit

music video meme sound of music

A band I’ve never heard of with an interesting song and great camera work.

Not too shabby, Passion Pit — not to shabby at all.

For all you word nerds, here are the lyrics:

All these kind of places
Make it seems like it’s been ages
Tomorrow some new building will scrape the sky
I love this country dearly
I can feel the ladder clearly
But I never thought I’d be alone to try

Once I was outside Penn station
Selling red and white carnations
We were still alone
My wife and I
Before we marry, save my money
Brought my dear wife over
Now I work to bring family state side

But off the boat they stayed a while and
Scattered across the coast
Once a year I’ll see them for a week or so at most
I took a walk

Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk
Take a walk, oh-oh-oh
Take a walk, oh-oh-oh
I took a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk

Practice isn’t perfect
But the market cuts the loss
I remind myself that times could be much worse
My wife won’t ask me questions
There’s not so much to ask
And she’ll never flaunt around an empty purse

Once my mother-in-law came
Just to stay a couple nights
And decided she would stay the rest of her life
I watch my little children
Play some board game in the kitchen
And I sit and pray they never feel my strife

But then my partner called to say the pension funds were gone
He made some bad investments
Now the accounts are overdrawn

I took a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk
Take a walk, oh-oh-oh
Take a walk, 0h-oh-oh
I took a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk

Honey it’s your son I think I borrowed just too much
We had taxes we had bills
We had a lifestyle to front
And tonight I swear I’ll come home
And we’ll make love like we’re young
And tomorrow you’ll cook dinner
For the neighbors and their kids
We could rip apart those socialists
and all their damn taxes
You’ll see I am no criminal
I’m down on both bad knees
I’m just too much a coward
to admit when I’m in need

I took a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk
Take a walk, oh-oh-oh
Take a walk, 0h-oh-oh
I take a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk
I took a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk
I took a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk
Take a walk, take a walk, take a walk

TOO CLOSE by Alex Clare

music video meme sound of music

Bad fight choreography, great song.

Maybe, just maybe, somebody saw FROM YESTERDAY by 30 Seconds to Mars and said hey, we can’t afford to fly a crew to China and hire 500 extras to make a mini-movie masterpiece. But we do know two dudes who just started taking kendo.

Lyrics for TOO CLOSE:

You know I’m not one to break promises
I don’t want to hurt you but I need to breathe
At the end of it all you’re still my best friend
But there’s something inside that I need to release

Which way is right, which way is wrong
How do I say that I need to move on?
You know we have is separate way

And it feels like I am just too close to love you
There’s nothing I can really say
I can’t lie no more, I can’t hide no more
Got to be true to myself

And it feels like I am just too close to love you so I’ll be on my way

You gave me more that I can return
Yet there’s so much that you deserve
Nothing to say, nothing to do
I’ve nothing to give
I must leave without you
You know we have to separate

And it feels like I am just too close to love you
There’s nothing I can really say
I can’t lie no more, I can’t hide no more
Got to be true to myself

And it feels like I am just too close to love you so I’ll be on my way
So I’ll be on my way
And it feels like I am just too close to love you
There’s nothing that I can really say
I can’t lie no more, I can’t hide no more
Got to be true to myself

And it feels like I am just too close to love you so I’ll be on my way
So I’ll be on my way, so I’ll be on my way

Music Video Monday: GANGNAM STYLE by Psy

music video meme sound of music

So, I usually find great music videos and go at them with a literary scalpel, like a first-year biology student going after his first frog — or I take insane music videos and make fun of them.

Each method is equally rewarding.

HOWEVER: Sometimes, a random music video pops up that is not one of the pure forms. It’s not insane, insipid or inscrutable. Nor is it beautiful in the standard way.

Every once and a while, something pops up that is both insane AND great.

Like this piece from South Korea, which also proves the point that attitude trumps all. The singer isn’t conventionally good looking. He’s short and out of shape. But oh, he’s got swagger, and it makes him far more charming than a boy-band member with perfect abs who tries very, very hard not to get a hair out of place while he croons.

Typically, I interpret the lyrics of videos. Not this time. Just watch and enjoy.

ENTER THE NINJA by Die Antwoord

Well, this is different. It’s not achingly good or insanely low-budget and terrible.

The music is oddly OK, and the production values are high.

But it’s just so flipping weird.

Let’s take inventory: We’ve got  (1) a skinny ex-convict or whatever who thinks he’s some kind of ninja, though (2) his albino woman who keeps singing “samurai” all the time and (3) I have no idea whether this third person, the short man wearing a hoodie, is supposed to be a ninja, a samurai or some kind of wizard.

Let’s clear up the ninja vs. samurai thing real quick. Samurai = soldiers with big katanas and armor. Ninja = what every Internet Tough Guy wants to be. Pick one, not both. They are incompatible.

Also, ninjas will NOT allow Tom Cruise into their secret club.