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 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.

Music video dance-off: Janet Jackson vs. Dua Lipa

Dance and music videos go together like peanut butter and chocolate, salt and pepper, bacon and eggs, coffee and newspapers.

Janet Jackson has made dance music videos forever, and my fake news version of “forever” includes before Dua Lipa was born. (She’s 23, so yes, no lie.)

Today, we’re looking at the latest from Janet, MADE FOR NOW, versus an interesting twist on the dance video from Dua, IDGAF, and yes, if you’re offended by bad words, Dua has a bad one right up there in the title. Sorry. Didn’t write the song.

First up: Janet, then Dua, before we dissect both videos.

I bet you the title to my car that Janet’s video cost far, far more than Dua’s–it certainly looks slick and expensive.

In this case, money and production values don’t win.

Dua has a better song and a far, far more entertaining video.

The acid test to me is whether (a) you’d have to pay me to rewatch it or (b) I’d happily watch and listen to something again. I’ve happily put IDGAF on loop while you’d have to pay me to hit replay on MADE FOR NOW, a repetitive song and boring video.

And that’s too bad. Janet’s got talent to burn. She’s made iconic music videos for years.

RHYTHM NATION was groundbreaking and still works today.

So I’m disappointed because Janet’s playing it safe with this. So safe that it fails.

Here’s the thing: once you’ve already had crazy success and so much cash you can’t spend it without buying private islands in the South Pacific, playing it safe is a losing strategy. You’re coasting instead of pushing yourself, and the audience feels it.

Though I’m no fan of Madonna’s music, she did a tremendous job of recognizing this and picking a hot new producer for every album to reinvent herself. That was bold and risky. It made her a star for decades instead of a one-hit wonder.

The best music–rock, pop, rap, whatever–attacks the status quo.

Aggressively. Relentlessly. Without mercy.

The worst music defends the status quo.

Limply. Lamely. Apologetically.

If you’re a famous singer or band, please take your piles of money and try to make something insanely different, new and interesting.

Rebel again.

Because that’s the real point of art, to shock us into seeing the world in a different way.

We have a contender for Worst Music Video of All Time

Here’s what makes WIRED FOR SOUND a masterpiece in the genre of bad music videos:

First, the song has to be genuinely bad, and it is boring and repetitive, with insipid lyrics.

Second, you want terrible production values, as in “We rented the local skating rink for $50 and only have four hours to shoot this thing, so let’s get it done.”

Third, the costumes need to absolutely pop, and these spandex unitard-things make everybody look like Teletubbies had a fling with Jane Fonda during her leggings and aerobics phase. Then they they discovered a hot tub time machine and went back to 1977 to find the nearest disco.

Which means I absolutely love this video.

Most terrible music videos are annoying, like DJ Khaled shouting his name six times while Justin Bieber tries to rap and look edgy with more tattoos. Here we go with a supercut of DJ Khaled doing his thing, saying his name in songs.

Note: Don’t confuse him with the singer Khalid, who did the brilliant LOVE LIES, one of my favorite songs and videos ever. To cleanse your palate, give this a listen.

WIRED FOR SOUND isn’t purely annoying.

This thing is so bad, it circles back to good, rewarding the viewer who rewatches it to discover new details, like anthropologists from the future wondering what specific drugs we were on and whether the different colors of spandex unitard-things denoted your cultural position and class rank.

Clean Bandit makes a clean getaway with SOLO

Here we go: a music video done right.

There’s a story that (a) makes sense and (b) fits the lyrics.

We’ve got funky, Weird Science effects and skateboarding tricks that are actually cool and doable by normal people. And it all works together in a package that fits the song.

I truly like this video. They’re not desperately trying to be deep, awards or boost the ego of band members. This video is meant to be a good time, and it gets that job done.

Great job, Clean Bandit and Demi Levato–I’d love to see more like this.

Battle of the Trippy Music Videos: GOD IS A WOMAN versus MINE

Ariana Grande possesses an illegal amount of talent.

If you’ve seen her on SNL, Jimmy Fallon or at awards shows, you know she can imitate everybody from Whitney Houston to Celine Dion to Britney Spears.

It. Is. Uncanny.

Her music videos tend to be creative, too. Good on her.

GOD IS A WOMAN may be peak Ariana so far.

This video is a spectacle, with trippy visuals and interesting effects. Every time you watch it, you see something new.

Compare that with MINE by Bazzi, an equally trippy music video in an entirely different style.

Note: there are some bad words in Bazzi’s video. Don’t play this at work with your speakers cranked up to 11, though that’s a pretty safe thing to say about just about every pop song today.

I bet Ariana’s video cost a lot more than Bazzi’s, and it’s definitely more ambitious and slicker. You get the sense a giant Hollywood production crew worked for a month on Ariana’s, where this dude you knew in college who’s good with AfterEffects went to town on Bazzi’s video.

However, Bazzi wins this round. With the GOD IS A WOMAN video, I’m fully aware of how slick and perfect everything is, which makes me want to find flaws.

MINE is gritty and raw, which lets you enjoy the details without wondering if they cost more than the Gross Domestic Product of Paraguay.

VERDICT: People rightfully like the message and spectacle of GOD IS A WOMAN, which is genuinely good. But the underdog, Bazzi, does her one better. Give us more like this, Bazzi.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The four secret purposes of music videos

DOWNTOWN by Macklemore

Why do music videos still exist now that MTV is dead?

The old answer, back in the day, was a simple formula:

(a) Band makes a music video

(b) Gives said video, free, to MTV, which plays videos 24/7, causing

(c) Everybody profits, with MTV getting bazillions in TV ads for broadcasting free content while the band sells bazillions of obscure artifacts that archeologists call “tapes” and “CD’s.”

Today is different. High school and college students today don’t buy tapes or CD’s, though for some reason they do spend real dollars on an even more obsolete technology involving massive vinyl platters created by musicians who retired long before they were born.

Today, the reasons for music videos are subtle and mysterious, given that MTV—after a corporate retreat that must have involved industrial amounts of alcohol, peyote and stupidity—stopped running free music videos 24/7 and decided to give the world Snooki, the Situation and Real Teen Moms or whatever.

Why make music videos? Here are the secret reasons no one will tell you, because I’m making them up right now:

1) Name ID is everything

Say you’re a rock band, and just starting out, as in “we just got our first gig!” means playing at your cousin’s wedding in exchange for two cases of Alaskan Amber.

To become famous, nationally, you could spend $10,000 a month on a top rock publicist and run a national ad campaign about your latest album and concert tour. Except you don’t have $5 million to even attempt such a thing. If the drummer sells his VW van, you might have $565, which could hire you a college PR student who’d write three press releases and make you a Twitter account.

Videos on YouTube, though, can give you a global audience—if you’re willing to do anything to get publicity.

Quality doesn’t always matter with music videos. Shoot the thing in grainy black-and-white, or out of focus, and people will think your brand is gritty and authentic instead of slick and corporate.

For any sort of band or singer looking to break in, name ID is the whole shooting match, and music videos are perhaps the easiest way to get your face and songs out there.

Underdogs can’t produce slick, amazing videos like today’s stars and don’t have the experience of one-time stars making comeback attempts.

Standing out, as an underdog, means taking gigantic risks on a tiny budget.

Nobody did this better than Ylvis with WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY?

2) To get their film groove on

Ever notice that pro athletes want to be movie stars, movie stars want to be rock stars and rock stars want to be pro athletes or movie stars?

Well, rock stars also want to be actors.

Filming an artistic music video, a mini-film, lets them live that fantasy.

It’s also fan service.

If you’re a 30 Seconds to Mars fanatic, putting the song on your iTunes playlist is one thing. A new music video from Jared Leto, though, is an event. He’s an amazing actual Hollywood actor, so it’s not a shock his videos are amazing.

THE KILL is a great example of music video as short film.

NOVEMBER RAIN is another classic, running more than 9 minutes without boring the audience one bit.

Honorable mention, because they get the whole KILL BILL vibe perfect: Iggy in BLACK WIDOW and every single video Macklemore has done or ever will do.

3) To achieve perfection and therefore immortality

In the studio, you can re-record tracks and mix a song for weeks until it’s perfect.

On a concert stage, visual elements let you put on a real show, though you have to pick between the stale, cold and impersonal perfection of lip syncing or the energy of imperfect live singing while you try to dance and not flub the high notes.

Music videos give you the best of both worlds: perfect sound plus perfect visuals.

UPTOWN FUNK nails this. Amazing sound and a nice variety of visuals. It’s a show.

4) To send a message

Typically, rock stars trying to do message-y videos come on too strong, and it feels like a lecture.

They’re at their best when they don’t try to be politicians—when you can tell this is something they wrote and care about, not lyrics from a paid songwriter matched with beats from a producer.

NOT READY TO MAKE NICE by the Dixie Chicks is my favorite protest / message video.

5) To make money

How does a band make money by putting music videos online for free?

Because nobody really sells albums and songs in 2015, not when your average 7-year-old has the tech skills to go online and download songs for free.

Even the biggest stars make most of their money from selling concert tickets and merchandise. Sure, some make royalties whenever Spotify and Pandora plays their stuff, or cash in for millions by selling tunes for tv ads by Toyota selling Tundras.

Concerts, though, are today’s cash cow.

Katy Perry nails this, giving people a taste of what her concerts would be like in every video: costume changes, dancing sharks, fireworks and Katy Perry flying around the stadium.

GANGNAM STYLE by Psy stands out as one of the best music videos every for getting people to become interested in seeing him live. You see this and think yeah, that guy will put on a show. I’d pay money to see him live.

U2 did this in epic style with WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME, as the band shot their music video on a rooftop in downtown LA while the cops tried to shut it down in real life. You get a gritty feel for what they’d be like, up close. I’ve seen U2 in concert and that feeling is real.

DOWNTOWN by Macklemore is daring and different

DOWNTOWN by Macklemore

Note: Macklemore uses a few bad words. 

Macklemore is a Seattle treasure, a smart artist who figured out his producer, Ryan Lewis, is the secret to success–so he gives Ryan credit and co-billing all the time.

I’ve seen Macklemore’s old videos, before he partnered up with Ryan, and you could see the talent and imagination. It just wasn’t quite there. Ryan Lewis gave him polish and took him over the top.

Three things I love about DOWNTOWN:

1) Guest star goodness

Every video, Macklemore and Ryan find new guest singers.

This time, they brought in old-school rappers and made a star out of Eric Nally, who’s been around a while and for some reason never took off. He will now.

Ryan’s amazing at this. I’ve watched videos of other guest singers, and they sounded good in their original videos. Ryan made them sound like angels. It’s a gift.

2) Unafraid to be epic

Conventional wisdom says to keep your song short and radio-friendly. The longer the song, the less likely you’ll get played.

This video is long, different and daring.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis aren’t afraid to take chances with music videos, to swing hard, knowing they’ll miss sometimes.

They’re also smart enough to take things that should be lame–like thrift shops and mopeds–and turn them hip. That takes talent.

3) Local gems

Macklemore travels around the Northwest to shoot his videos, this time in Spokane, where I lived for a few years.

Most of this is shot downtown. Spokane has a great downtown, including Riverfront Park, and I hear Macklemore used local actors, dancers and extras.

This is smart. Who wouldn’t be excited about a music video being shot in your town, and having the chance to be in it?

Verdict: Macklemore keeps coming up with excellent music videos. THRIFT SHOP and SAME LOVE are classics. This is another good one, well-thought out and executed. If MTV still played music videos instead of Jersey Shore marathons, they’d have this running all the time.

CARL POPPA by Bad Lip Reading is a brilliant parody–and you can DANCE to it

How much do I love this?

Here’s how much: I could not adore it more, or find a single serious way to improve the lyrics or the music.

Seriously. Four out of four stars. Perfection.

For a parody of pop culture, it’s edited with style. And for a song, it’s better than 90 percent of what’s out there on the radios. But it’s main job is to be funny, and though I’ve seen it five times, it still makes me laugh.

Verdict: Give us moar moar MOAR.

Here are the lyrics:

Beat

I hurt the Gingerbread Boy,
Cuz he’s pretend-bread boy.
Little cookie man never waved to me,
So he got knocked out.

Man, cuz I flow.
La Jiggy Jar Jar Doo,
Dur Dur Dur Dee Dur.
Man, I just flow.

Shoe Shine,
No one wanted your stinking tiara,
Cuz no one wanted your sticky chair.
And why you always talk about the cool kids who take archery,
Yeah, you’re a shrinky dink.
You’ll get a funeral if you don’t wise up and call me Carl Poppa,
(oh,oh-oh,oh)
La Jiggy Jar Jar Do,
Dur Dur Dur Dee Dur.

I threw a brick in the air,
(what kind of brick?)
That shouldn’t matter cuz a brick is just a brick,
(Word.)

Dark days, darker nights,
Found my way down a hall without a light,
Because I flow,
La Jiggy Jar Jar Doo,
Dur Dur Dur Dee Dur.

This whole thing where random dead people try to kill me’s gotta go.

They keep walking, walking my way. If they’re talking, can’t tell what they say.
They keep falling, over stuff in their way. Dead dudes walking can ruin your day.

(oh,oh-oh,oh)

La Jiggy Jar Jar Doo,
Dur Dur Dur Dee Dur,

Now all the walkers sing!

(oh,oh-oh,oh [x3])

Yeah, I just like to dance.

Carl Poppa

Cellblock wisdom, french braid tabletop,
If you mess with Carl Poppa,
I’m coming at you like, one, two, walkers in the back of the club,
I’m guessing it’s a club where everyone dies,
If they try to dance to the music that doesn’t play,
Cuz we don’t got no electricity.

What we got is bones, bones, bones.
Piles of bones, bones, bones, bones, bones.
If you try to step to me, hit you in the femur,
With another femur that is laying on the ground.

Yeah,
Wordsmith,
Rhymes.

Hama Lama Sima Lama Hama Lama,
Someone had to cut my baby sister out my mama.

They keep walking, walking my way.
If they’re talking, can’t tell what they say.
They keep falling, over stuff in their way.
Dead dudes walking can ruin your day.

They keep walking, (no one wanted your stinking tiara) walking my way.
If they’re talking, (cuz no one wanted your sticky chair) can’t tell what they say.
They keep falling, (why you always talking about the cool kids, who take archery. You’re a shrinky dink) over stuff in their way. Dead dudes walking (If you don’t wise up and call me Carl Poppa) can ruin your day.

La Jiggy Jar Jar Doo,
Dur Dur Dur Dee Dur,
Man, I just flow.

(Carl Poppa [x2])

Man I just flow.

(Carl Poppa [x3])

I can barely remember pre-apocalypse. (Carl Poppa)
I guess nothing rhymes with that, except maybe “taco lips”.

Man, I just flow.
(Carl Poppa [x2])
Man I just flow.

(Carl Poppa)

You cannot handle the flow, son.

Why WATCH ME by Silento is simple and viral

Now, music majors and people with taste around the world will sniff that this song is far too simple and boring. Give us something complex and interesting, a song that’s less repetitive and more complex.

I agree with that criticism. It’s a very simple song and not really meant to crank up on your stereo as you’re driving around.

As a dance song, though, it’s beautifully done.

Here’s why: Continue reading “Why WATCH ME by Silento is simple and viral”