In the old days, back when MTV actually played music videos, it took some doing to shoot, edit, and release a music video. You needed a serious film camera, an editor, lights, an actual band, and a platform where people could see it. Thus, MTV.
In the ’80s–and even today–there are music videos shot by Hollywood directors and budgets in the millions.
Yet these days, we all carry supercomputers in our pockets, and fool with an iPhone can shoot a video and edit it on their laptop.
That doesn’t mean they should, or that it will be good.
Which brings us to RED DRESS by Sarah Brand, which is dividing the musical world. Is it horrible, intentionally horrible, or disguised brilliance, with the singer trolling us to boost her name ID before she releases her real music?
There are comments in the YouTube that try to explain this is “microtonal music,” and amazing, while vocal coaches and other smart people say that’s nonsense and that when she was asked what key this song is in, Sarah replied, “All of them.”
Here, watch this thing so we can properly discuss and dissect it.
What say you?
I believe, deep in my soul, that the evidence clearly points to Sarah Brand as being deadly serious about this, and not trolling us at all.
This wasn’t a quick little joke.
She composed, sang, directed, and edited this video. There’s a bit of a blooper real at the end. And it’s clear she recruited every friend in sight to be in it.
But hey, I’m not going to beat her up for trying. She’s not asking us to buy concert tickets at $100 a pop. There’s no link to buy T-shirts or anything.
Sarah wanted to make a music video and did it, and the Series of Tubes is a much simpler way to share it than trying to get MTV execs to play the thing.
Is it bad? Yeah. HOWEVER: there are tons of pop stars who sound great in the studio and terrible live.
Just like anything else creative, the editing and polishing means everything. Writing, photography, painting, whatever.
Here’s an amazing look at how much editing can fix. Same raw material, same voice.
I’m not going to do the easy thing and hate on this, or the hipster thing and try to claim this is microtonal goodness that regular people just don’t understand.
My point is this: art is hard. Yes, some geniuses like Dave Grohl can play all the instruments on an album they make in their garage for kicks and accidentally give birth to Foo Fighters, and some filmmakers can shoot and edit a film with a skeleton crew of themselves, their dog, and Neighbor Kid Walter to fetch Taco Bell when the actors get hungry.
But those are the rare, rare exceptions. Every artist is better when they have a team of professionals behind them.
It’s not hard to find weird music videos, mostly because (a) you can’t throw a rock on YouTube without smacking five different music vids and (b) musicians tend to play it really, really safe or truly let their freak flag fly. There’s no in-between.
This video is the good kind of weird. Watch, then let’s chat about why.
Okay, so that’s definitely something I hadn’t seen before: a music video where the heroes are a gang of ducks, getting revenge on an actual gang for their misdeeds.
And yeah, there are seventeen ways this video could’ve gone wrong. But I think it works.
They set things up properly by showing the human gang doing bad things, both to other humans and to the ducks, and the ducks starting to go into action, building up suspense. Then they paid all that off with a nice variety of surprising montage of Duck Vigilante Justice with a good sense of variety and surprise, escalating to a climax. I particularly liked the duck driver–a nice touch.
Yes, this video is definitely weird, but the risks paid off. Well done, Bingo Players.
Expensive Monsters, made by pop stars and rappers, and these videos have budgets bigger than the gross national product of Paraguay.
Shoestring Specials, shot on your buddies iPhone and edited by Carl, who dropped out of UCLA film school but still has his subscription to the Adobe Creative Suite, so you pay him in beer.
Obscure Weirdness, where all the wild things live.
It’s the obscure stuff that’s the most fun, because you never know what you’ll find. Sometimes it will be gross, or lame, or shocking. But other times, it’s like finding buried treasure without a pirate map.
Here’s what I just saw. Take a look and a listen.
It’s silly and stupid, right? But also brilliant. So maybe stupidly brilliant.
The sets and costumes are COMPLETELY SPOT-ON, like they bribed the night shift guy at Paramount–maybe he’s a cousin of Carl’s.
I’m loving the actor’s facial expressions, which are perfect, especially when he’s playing Data.
So: I’m required by law to like this. It’s creative, and a lot more fun than watching your average music video from a Far Too Serious Pop Star.
These days, you need to put up music videos on the Series of Tubes to make a living as a musician, which is great, except it costs the gross domestic product of Paraguay to do proper music video. Which makes it tough for scrappy bands trying to make it.
So it’s refreshing to see bands do good videos shot on their friend’s iPhone and edited in MS Paint or whatever, all for a total budget of $593.93, most of that budget going for pizza.
What’s even more impressive than a cheap music video?
One that cost absolutely zero dollars.
Here are two short little snippets of music on video that warmed my heart in two completely different ways.
First up is a man playing the Careless Whispers saxophone bit for cows.
Why do I love this? Because it’s pure joy, on his part and from the cows. He’s just learning the sax and isn’t world class yet. The man won’t be going on tour. But my God, these cows are into it, which gives him, and anyone watching the video, a pure sense of joy and wonder.
Next up: one minute of pure talent.
She’s using a couch cushion, a baby toy and I don’t know what else for drum equipment and it just doesn’t matter.
I would pay cash money to watch her live. Right? Moar moar moar.
Also: I wonder what the cows would think of drumming like this. Are they into all music, or just horns?
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.
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.
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.
Points for trying something bold and risky. Demerits for not executing. But love ya anyway, Shatner–keep on singing.
No, I did not make up that headline. That’s the real deal, word for word.
Shockingly, this did not happen in Florida.
Let’s break it down, journalism-style.
WHO: A female inmate, 34 years old.
WHAT: An escape from custody while she was getting booked on a drug possession charge.
She was later found hiding in the hot tub of a senior center, still wearing her orange jumpsuit from the jail.
WHEN: December 19, 2018. It took police hours to find her after the escape.
WHERE: Waverly, Ohio.
WHY: That’s the mystery.
Hiding in a senior center could make sense. It’s not like the cops have to show up there every Friday night to break up bar fights. But to make that plan work, you’d have to change your clothes and pretend to be a visitor, or a janitor, that sort of thing. You don’t hang out in the hot tub, where you’ll (a) get spotted by all kinds of people who (b) maybe want to use that hot tub and (c) will definitely call the cops when they see your orange jail gear.
And for those who don’t get it, the headline is a great riff on the movie HOT TUB TIME MACHINE, brought to you by the same geniuses now doing COBRA KAI.
However, this story is only the latest entry into the proud historical record of Criminals Who Stink at Hiding.
Florida Man takes the top spot in my book, with a man running from the police late at night getting the bright idea that he’ll hide in a pond. True, the 5-0 didn’t find him. That’s only because an alligator did first.
There are hundreds of other stories of criminals hiding in stupid places: in a dumpster, a manure lagoon, the lion cage at a zoo–you name it, some idiot has done it.
So I salute you, Hot Tub Crime Machine Woman–you get an F for achieving your goal but an A+ for style.