1) It’s completely and utterly different. Have you ever seen or heard anything like this? No.
This is what would happen if you took a nightclub scene from THE MATRIX and crossed it with an episode of Teletubbies.
2) It’s completely and utterly ridiculous.
Which is probably the point. The singer knows and embraces the craziness. He’s having a blast.
Why not? You’re on stage. Put on a show. And this is definitely a show.
3) The backup non-dancers slay me.
Backup dancers who energetically gyrate are fine for Brittney Spears, the Backstreet Boys 7th comeback tour and the bourgeoisie. But dancers who dance do not
surprise and shock you. They are inherently Boring.
This is about why lectures never work, poetry is powerful, even instrumental music can make you cry and the humble, silly music video can be one of the most devastating weapons of persuasion and change on this little rock orbiting a ginormous burning ball of nuclear fusion and fire.
1) Lectures never work
If you have a toddler, or a teenager, or are married, you are well aware of this fact.
Lectures are basically journalism, writing or speaking to inform. If your purpose is to persuade, journalism and lectures won’t do the job.
It’s common to hear, “If I just had more TIME to explain the facts, they’d understand and agree with me.”
This is how to you do it: simple, elegant, beautifully shot, with quick cuts done right to the beat and nothing insane, like the singer’s best friend’s cousin thought would be great to have fire-breathing monster trucks jump a yellow school bus with cheerleaders on the roof doing acrobatics.
Knew this song but hadn’t seen the video until now. NOT TOO SHABBY.
Nelly Furtado isn’t a huge star, nor is she some unknown talent, waiting tables to pay for her guitar lessons. But she’s got pipes, looks like a supermodel and hasn’t been in the papers of news for 17 zillion stupid things like other pop stars. I give her props. Also, instead of featuring a rapper to growl and act tough while she hit octaves we didn’t know existed, the rapper gets to do high notes while she keeps it low. I like that. Changes things up.
When you take a popular song and add an insanely bad video, you get ’80s gold.
I think it was Larry the Clark who spotted this gem. There’s no creativity here, no story, no theme.
This is my theory of what happened: the band showed up and the video’s director said, “Hey, we’ve got a picture frame and five acres of blue fabric. Just do weird stuff and I’ll keep the cameras rolling.”
Is there anything from the ’90s, 2000’s or today that even compares? (Note: videos by Adam Ant do not count, because that’s too easy.)
So I’ve been MIA for eons, (a) working hard at the work, (b) injuring myself and going to PT–deadlifts are evil, do not do them–and (c) at home, madly finishing & rewriting a new novel, which is crazy fun. Sometime soon, I’ll need to do laundry. Maybe even the dishes. I AM A DANGEROUS MAN.
Happy to say I can walk again without looking like it’s torture, or being asked by little old ladies if they can carry my stuff.
Today’s music video is a classic I heard on the radio and had to find on the interwebs. Because it’s interesting and a great microcosm of the ’80s, and the entire genre of music videos.
Have a listen and a look, then we’ll talk smack.
Reason # 3: Single Dangly Earring
Everybody had one. Punk rockers, lead singers, crooners, country singers.
A single earring sent many messages. On a male rocker, it told the world you were a rebel. Combine it with a tiny cross for irony: rebellious believer.
Single earring on a female singer? Rebellion, sure, but also, “Couldn’t find the other earring and hey, I don’t care.” Not caring, by coincidence, is the essence of cool.
Reason # 2: Sincere Imitation of Sting
For a long time, one rock band stood atop the musical world: The Police.
After they broke up, and Sting went solo, I heard this exact song on the radio and thought, “Huh, that’s cool, The Police got back together. I should see them in concert before they split up again.”
This song is the best imitation of The Police, ever. It’s not even close. Sorry, Bruno Mars.
Also: I saw The Police in concert when they actually did get back together, and it was beautiful. Sting’s son has a band and opened for them. Sounds a lot like his dad. Maybe he could join The Outfield if they ever do a reunion tour. I WOULD LOVE THIS.
Reason # 1: Epic Feathered Hair
Everybody has it: the lead singer, the drummer, even the random set girl who makes goo-goo eyes right back at Flirty McFlirty Pants.
You can’t be an ’80s rock story without feathered hair. If record label executives looking to sign new acts had a checklist, Feathered Hair was the first thing on it.
In fact, I can classify any band from the ’80s simply by the length of their feathered hair:
a) Modest Bleached Feathery Goodness = punk rocker
b) Feathery MacGyver Mullet = pop crooner (Richard Marx!) or mainstream country star
c) Long Feathered Hair + Mall Bangs = pop starlet
d) Bleach Job + Crazy Long Hair + Spandex = metal band.
Here’s the acid test, for me: I drive MANY MILES each day, listening to the radios, and if a song is good, I don’t care who sings it.
Only then do I check out the music video, and maybe blog about it on the WordPress machines.
TAKE ME TO CHURCH rocks on the radio.
However, having watched 4,092 bazillion music videos in my life, including a brief period where MTV actually played music videos, I’ve learned not to expect much from the actual video part, except for (a) boy bands dancing, (b) pop divas dancing in front of backup dancers who are far better at the dancing thing, (c) rock stars trying dance with the microphone stand or (d) hipster bands trying to be artsy and deep while mostly being bizarre.
Good music videos are rare.
I’m not talking “Bigfoot is in my backyard and I shot thirty minutes of film of him playing with my dog” kind of rare.
No. I’m talking about “Snooki is at a philosophy conference at Yale, presenting a paper on Nietzsche” rare.
So here are two music videos, both black-and-white, and both surprises.
First up is Hozier, the one from the headline. Great song on the radio, different and strong. The video makes it ever better, wonderfully shot in true film-noir style, it’s not afraid to have a non-Hollywood ending. Well played, Hozier.
The second song and video is also black-and-white and the same kind of slow burn. Had no idea who sang it when it played on the radio. Good stuff, full of pain and longing, and not your usual “baby baby” bubblegum pop nonsense with a guest rapper to give it some grit and soul. (How many times can pop stars go to that well? Apparently, forever.)
This second video shocked me by being by Selena Gomez, not known for this sort of song. And yes, she looks like every bartender in the world would card her, and the song is about Justin Bieber, who simply needs to go away. Despite those handicaps, which are huge, it works. So let’s give it props. Watch and listen.
Well shot. Well acted. It’s an itty bitty movie, people.
Your typical music video about a man stepping out on his wife has the woman scorned (a) trashing that cheater’s Beemer after (b) she gives away all his Armani suits to Goodwill and (c) the ending has her slapping him while he (d) sadly spots the FOR SALE sign next to all his other worldly possession currently being burned in the front yard.
Sam the Smith avoids the Hollywood ending and gives us ambiguity. Will she stay or leave? How long will the masquerade last?
Now, there are little things to nitpick. Sam is a man with a great deep voice, and this is shot with the female actress being the one cheated on, so that does start out a little odd. Also, Sam’s rocking a haircut that’s very, I don’t know, British. HOWEVER: you can always scratch at itty bitty details.
Overall, this music video stands out for great cinematography, which most bands can’t even spell, with great acting and the guts to avoid a Hollywood ending, even if they hired all kinds of Hollywood talent to pull this off.
I tip my hat to Sam the Smith and pray to the music gods that he makes more like this, if only to counter the effects of new One Direction videos.
Music videos tend to come in a few generic flavors: (a) pop divas singing with backup-dancers, (b) boy bands singing while serving as their own backup dancers and (c) rockers howling while they sort of dance. For variety, musicians sometimes (d) try to get deep and artsy by filming their video in black-and-white. Whoa.
Truly different music videos are rare.
The exception: 30 SECONDS TO MARS rocks at almost every music video they do, but that’s because Jared Leto is a legit Hollywood actor who knows how to make big honking movies, much less short films. The man has an Oscar and such.
So whatever you think of Iggy, she does put effort into her music videos. FANCY was a nice riff on the movie CLUELESS, and now she pays homage (hipsters: go fight about how to pronounce that word) to the classic KILL BILL movies.
This is all good movie-music karma, since KILL BILL has one of the most epic soundtracks of all time.
Listen: I loved this song on the radio and played the video five straight times. However, it’s my job, my sacred duty and my Bobby Brown prerogative to (a) look for flaws, (b) make fun of things and (c) find serious ways to fix those silly flaws.
Great song and artsy vid, right?
Let’s break it down.
First, for about three seconds I thought Malcolm Gladwell put in his 10,000 hours of hard practice at the piano and formed a band. But no, this singer simply has the same epic hair, which I love. And he rocks that piano.
Second, I salute Christina the Aguilera, who always had more talent than her Mousketeer mate Britney Spears, closer to Tonya Harding than Tori Amos and an even bet to one day go bankrupt and wind up living in a trailer park in Texas, singing karaoke on weekends at the honky tonk. Christina has pipes, common sense and the brains to hook up with new indie bands like Great Big World. So: RECOGNIZE.
Third, the other guy is clearly the other member of the band, and he’s got nothing to do in this video. Zero. Zip. Nada. I suspect he is to the piano stud as Ryan Lewis is to Macklemore, so hey, he’s required to be in the music video, but he’s got nothing to do. And that’s the number one flaw to fix, right off. The solution is easy: Mr. Director, hand that man a violin, a tambourine or a bottle of bourbon so he can properly emote. Give him something to do beside lean on the piano or sit on the piano. The guy looks bored because he MUST be bored out of his skull, and that’s crazy boring for us to watch. The dude must have gobs of talent. Let him show off a little.
The next two problems to fix: a heavy dose of Overly Dramatic Squirrel and on-the-nose imagery, two great problems that don’t go great together.
When we first see Christina the Aguilera, she does a slow-mo version of a model fiercely crosslegging down the catwalk.
The next ten times we see her, she’s dramatically touching her face and such. Listen, the lyrics are dramatic enough. You don’t have to sell it to the people in the back rows of the theater, because this isn’t a Broadway play. It’s a video. The camera is close enough to show off your clean pores, in 1080p or 4k or whatever video format Samsung invented yesterday.
The on-the-nose imagery is the visual twin of dialogue that Hollywood screenwriters, director and actors would say are on-the-nose.
Nobody says what they really mean, and no video should beat you over the head with a sledgehammer with its message. If you want to sing about being sad, sing it. If you want to show sadness while a guitar wails, show it. But don’t sing sadly while a piano tinkles sadly and the actor on screen does exactly what you’re singing about, like hiding her head under the covers. Because that’s on-the-nose overkill.
Subtext is stronger than text. John Waite understands this.
Also, in the climax of the song, the singer / piano master goes completely crazy leg on us, and yeah, we get that you’re really into it, and this is the big finish, but there’s a weird contrast going on between you, your slow-motion Genie in a Bottle, your completely comatose buddy. This part didn’t fly. Maybe they don’t have choreographers for piano guys, and maybe they should.
But these are minor flaws. Nitpicking, really. It’s a beautiful song and an impressive video.
Verdict: Love this song. The video, while flawed, is still 100 times more watchable than whatever nonsense Justin Bieber is putting out in between getting arrested in LA, Miami, Toronto or whatever city he’s being arrested in today.
Sting is the opposite of a one-hit wonder. And this little song shows off that he can write, too.
Here’s the video, which is a nice little black-and-white piece that doesn’t feature a single shot of Sting wailing into a microphone while the band plucks at guitars. I appreciate that.
And here are the lyrics, which is why I’m posting about this song. My favorite bit: “Dark angels follow me / Over a godless sea.” It’s a damn sight better than Justin “Dragracing to Deportation” Beiber’s “Baby, baby, baby.”
WHY SHOULD I CRY FOR YOU by Sting
Under the dog star sail
Over the reefs of moonshine
Under the skies of fall
North, north west, the Stones of Faroe
Under the Arctic fire
Over the seas of silence
Hauling on frozen ropes
For all my days remaining
But would north be true?
All colours bleed to red
Asleep on the ocean’s bed
Drifting on empty seas
For all my days remaining
But would north be true?
Why should I?
Why should I cry for you?
Dark angels follow me
Over a godless sea
Mountains of endless fog,
For all my days remaining,
What would be true?
Sometimes I see your face,
The stars seem to lose their place
Why must I think of you?
Why must I?
Why should I?
Why should I cry for you?
Why would you want me to?
And what would it mean to say,
That, “I loved you in my fashion”?
What would be true?
Why should I?
Why should I cry for you?
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.
My friend Max (short for Maxima, though if it were short for Maximus that would also be cool in a GLADIATOR way) has introduced me to Macklemore.
He’s a Seattle rapper famous for the THRIFT STORE song and video, which is worth an entirely post by itself.
I’d heard Macklemore’s songs on the radio and such, but not the music videos, seeing how MTV doesn’t play vids anymore because, you know, wall-to-wall Jersey Shore nonsense and such. Snooki needs her screen time.
This video is long and courageous and well done.
I salute you, Macklemore, for having the range to do a hilarious romp like THRIFT STORE and the guts to do this quiet little beauty.
If I post a music video every Monday, or every other Monday, or on random Mondays when I feel like it, I will officially be playing more music than this channel on your cable box called MTV.
That channel, which was once proud and powerful, is now apparently dedicated to documentaries about the fake-tanning habits of young, unmarried losers in New Jersey with gelled hair and steroid problems and fake body parts.
Watch this insane video by Florence + The Machine, then use your literary powers of deconstruction to figure out what it’s trying to say.
I believe the alien go-go dancers are a tribute to all the green alien women Captain Kirk conquered back in the 1960s, and that the end of the video pays homage to the only good scene in X-MEN: THE FINAL COUNTDOWN OR WHATEVER when Famke Janssen, who rocked as an evil Bond girl in Goldeneye, went nuts and turned all these bad guys into dust because Hugh Jackman refused to go steady with her.
In my quest to play more music videos than MTV, here’s the latest installment of Music Video Monday.
Jared Leto is the frontman of 30 Seconds to Mars, and he was an actor first. He also directs these music videos, which is why the band’s videos rock so hard. (If you read the credits, the director has a silly name. Post a comment, whoever sees that name first.)
So: here’s the video, which obviously pays deep homage to THE SHINING.
Yes, I know that there are rumors that MTV still plays some music videos between the hours of 3 a.m. and 9 a.m., when it’s not doing Jersey Shore marathons or finding the next Heidi Pratt or whatever. MTV used to play videos 24 hours a day. Now all you can watch are country videos on some nearby channel. Do I need country videos about somebody’s dog dying and the transmission on his Chevy going out and his wife leaving with his best friend, and him sure missing his best friend? No. I need a channel that just plays music videos. VH1 doesn’t count.
This video by Fall Out Boy is a rocking tune with lyrics that nobody understands.
Listen closely. Tell me if you figure out (a) what the lead singer is saying, especially around the chorus and (b) if you can divine any meaning to those words.
Also: there is a parody video that tries to explain the lyrics. Quite funny and well done, though a smidge NSFW. If you fire up the YouTubes, you can probably find it.
If you were alive, and breathing, you remember watching this on what we used to call MTV, which played these things called “music videos” instead of endless reality shows starring people from New Jersey who tan a lot.
Sidenote: Sir Tans a Lot would be a funny name for a rapper who made fun of The Situation.
Three things: (1) the hair makes me laugh, (2) the effects seems cheap now and (3) the storytelling in the video is much better than the lyrics of the song.
Check out the lyrics below. I’ve read them twice. Saw the video a zillion times. The video sort of makes sense. The lyrics, not so much.