The sweetness of WHEN I TASTE TEQUILA by Dan + Shay

Most music videos are meh, and I say that as a huge fan of music and music videos who grew up watching this thing we called MTV, back when it played music videos instead of insipid reality shows.

It’s hard to find videos that truly stand out, ones that I remember and want to watch again. Even if I love the song itself.

It’s doubly tough for a country music video to hit me, for I do not speak twang. 

So when I heard this song on the radio, it was a nice surprise. Then I saw the video, which is really a short film. Oh my.

Take a peek.

Haunting, isn’t it?

What stands out are the shots. Just beautiful cinematography, scenes I want to linger over. The acting is spot-on and the musicians make the smart choice of staying in the background.

What makes it truly work is telling an actual story with a beginning, middle and end. 

There are all kinds of music videos that look impressive, paired with good songs. 30 Seconds to Mars is the king of these videos, with Jared Leto having the massive advantage of being a star actor who knows how to stage and shoot film. But you don’t see complete stories very often. You see themes and ideas, but not stories where people are in conflict and make decisions.

This music videos is full of conflict and choices. It’s a sweet love story, and it fills in missing pieces you don’t see in the lyrics (below).

Great job, Dan + Shay–I’m happy to have stumbled onto this.

WHEN I TASTE TEQUILA

I can still shut down a party
I can hang with anybody
I can drink whiskey and red wine
Champagne all night
Little Scotch on the rocks and I’m fine, I’m fine
 
But when I taste tequila, baby I still see ya
Cutting up the floor in a sorority t-shirt
The same one you wore when we were
Sky high in Colorado, your lips pressed against the bottle
Swearing on a bible, baby, I’d never leave ya
I remember how bad I need ya, when I taste Tequila
When I taste Tequila
 
I can kiss somebody brand new 
And not even think about you
I can show up to the same bar
Hear the same songs in my car
Baby, your memory, it only hits me this hard
 
When I taste Tequila, baby I still see ya
Cutting up the floor in a sorority t-shirt
The same one you wore when we were
Sky high in Colorado, your lips pressed against the bottle
Swearing on a bible, baby, I’d never leave ya
I remember how bad I need ya, when I taste Tequila
When I taste Tequila
 
I ain’t even drunk, I ain’t even drunk
And I’m thinking
How I need your love, how I need your love
Yeah, it sinks in
 
When I taste Tequila, baby I still see ya
Sorority t-shirt, the same one you wore when we were
Sky high in Colorado, your lips pressed against the bottle
Swearing on a bible, baby, I’d never leave ya
I remember how bad I need ya, when I taste Tequila
When I taste Tequila
When I taste Tequila
When I taste Tequila

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.

A Tour De Force of ’80s Videos

If you were breathing during the ’80s, you will remember these songs and videos. If you weren’t alive, use this chance to learn about the songs coming to Classic Rock stations after they get done with their rotation of ’60s folk and ’70s disco-funk.

You may recognize some tunes from this thing they used to call the radio, which plays random songs and ads you don’t control, no matter how many buttons you push, though you could use these things called telephones to call the DJ to request a song, win prizes or try to get on live air to say something horrible, clever or horribly clever.

This era is actually important, in a musical sense, because ’80s rock and pop stars were the first to deal with music videos and MTV, so they broke a lot of ground in terms of visuals. It’s hard to go from “here’s some live footage of a concert” to “which Hollywood director should we hire for our $3 million shebang that *might* hold a candle to Thriller?”

Check it out:

The clip from Top Gun still cracks me up. How did we ever think that movie was cool?

Writing insights revealed by country twang

country music

Usually, I take a music video and dissect the lyrics to look for writing insights, which is interesting and fun.

Click with your mousity mouse to see what I did to the music video and lyrics for ELECTRIC AVENUE, because it is not only fun, but educational.

Then go see what I did with Vanilla Ice and ICE, ICE BABY.

OK. Now we get all serious. Because I am using the lyrics to a country song, and I’m not making fun of it, despite my severe twang allergy.

Good music — and good writing — have the same patterns. Songs start slow, build up, bridge to  the chorus, return to the melody and build to a crescendo. They bring the audience on a journey.

The greatest guitarist in the world would bore you into a coma if he repeated the same riffs.

Variety is good.

Repetition can be powerfully boring, or powerfully good, depending on how you use it. If you do use repetition, it must have a purpose.

Country songs like this are great study for writers. Why? Not because they’re all sad songs where your pickup truck died, your wife left you for your best friend and your dog hates you. They’re useful because country songs tell a story in about 200 words, a story you can understand and dissect. I can point out the setups and payoffs. You can see the heroes and villains, the reversals and the climax.

By contrast, most pop songs feature lyrics that don’t have any real structure or story. 

Also, you can hear and understand country lyrics without a cheat sheet.

Three other good examples of country songs with great lyrics and minimal twang, if you are also allergic like me: LOVE STORY by Taylor Swift, Traveling Soldier by the Dixie Chicks and damn near anything by Lady Antebellum, who are flipping brilliant.

No matter what you write–novels or newspaper stories, screenplays or speeches–it’s worth remembering that writing needs to be like music. You need an interesting intro, a melody, a chorus and a crescendo. You need variety AND repetition.

So: watch this cheesy home-made music video. Listen to the lyrics, and read them on your magical screen that shows you words and moving pictures from anywhere on the planet.

See how Bucky the Covington has clear setups and payoff, and how he cleverly, and beautifully, uses repetition with a purpose.

The words in the chorus change slightly each time, yet the meaning is quite different. And while the writing itself is a tad clunky, my God, the structure, it is glorious. My only wish is that I owned a cowboy hat so I could take it off and salute you, Bucky.

I’LL WALK by Bucky Covington

We were 18, it was prom night.

We had our first big fight.

She said, Pull this car over.

I did and then I told her, I don’t know what you are crying for.

I grabbed her hand, as she reached for the door.

She said …

I’ll walk.

Let go of my hand.

Right now I’m hurt, and you don’t understand.

So just be quiet.

And later we will talk.

Just leave, don’t worry.

I’ll walk.

It was a dark night, a black dress.

Driver never saw her, around the bend.

I never will forget the call,

or driving to the hospital,

when they told me her legs still wouldn’t move.

I cried, when I walked into her room.

She said …

I’ll walk.

Please come and hold my hand.

Right now I’m hurt, and I don’t understand.

Lets just be quiet, and later we can talk.

Please stay, don’t worry.

I’ll walk.

I held her hand through everything.

The weeks and months of therapy.

And I held her hand and asked her to be my bride.

She’s dreamed from a little girl,

to have her daddy bring her down the isle.

So from her wheelchair, she looks up to him and smiles.

And says …

I’ll walk.

Please hold my hand.

I know that this will hurt, I know you understand.

Please daddy don’t cry.

This is already hard.

Let’s go, don’t worry.

I’ll walk.

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.

FROM DUSK TILL DAWN is a mini-movie masterpiece by Zayn and Sia

Why is this so good?

First, it looks amazing, and could easily pass for bits of a real noir movie, a dark mystery.

Yet what really hits me is how brilliantly this video uses minimalism.

There’s no needless exposition. In fact, the only real dialogue comes in a short interrogation scene, and it doesn’t get into much detail.

This is a huge strength. Trying to give all of these characters names and motivations that you’ll remember in a little music video is like ice skating uphill.

We don’t need to know the names of the man and the woman with the briefcases, the cops trying to bust them or the bad guys looking to steal the briefcase. There’s no real need to know exactly what’s in the second briefcase, how our heroes obtained it or what’s inside.

Making the briefcase a true MacGuffin adds to the mystery and actually helps the story. Not knowing any names or backstories also makes you more curious about them.

VERDICT: There’s a fine line between (a) keeping enough secrets from your audience to make them curious and (b) confusing your audience with events and characters that make no sense. FROM DUSK TILL DAWN nails it. The story works, and moves fast, without any stray exposition.

Don’t try to understand PSYCHO by Post Malone—just enjoy the trip

Listen: Everyone should check out PSYCHO by Post Malone, which if you come at tabula rosa seems like a warning that we’ll need tanks and flamethrowers to survive the dystopian hell after the reign the last president of the United States, former NBA all-star Karl Malone.

Have a listen and a look:

There’s a weird thing about music videos of all genres, whether it’s country, rap, pop, rock or Pop Rocks, and that one weird thing is this: Just be different.

If you spend 2.1 bazillion dollars and hire a Hollywood director to make a high-production video that’s JUST LIKE ALL THE OTHERS, then congratulations, you’ve wasted 2.1 bazillion dollars.

Because nobody aside from your hardcore fans will love it, or even see the thing. Risk nothing, gain nothing.

You can see this mistake happen again and again by big-name stars who forget how they got there by being scrappy, edgy and different, with songs that actually tell stories and/or try to say something. They start making songs, music videos and entire albums about the most interesting subject in the world: themselves. (See West, Kanye and Swift, Taylor.)

Which brings us to Post Malone and PSYCHO, which isn’t perfect—but at least it’s different.

Though I’m a huge fan of Mad Max movies, zombie movies and dystopian fun in general, there’s no real connection between the lyrics of the song and this imagery. And those lyrics are fine. They’re not hard to decipher, or worth interpreting and dissecting like the only good song Vanilla Ice ever did (ICE, ICE, BABY) or the first music video I can remember, back when MTV actually played music videos (ELECTRIC AVENUE by Eddie Grant). This is simply a good song.

ICE, ICE BABY as interpreted by the Red Pen of Doom

ELECTRIC AVENUE by Eddie Grant

Fitness Tips for the Apocalypse: Chapter 1—You’re Doing It Wrong

As for the video, I have no idea who the little girl is, why Post Malone is looking for her or why the animatronic wolves are just hanging around instead of munching on every human they see. Maybe they spent the budget renting tanks and didn’t have enough left to get the mutant wolves to move around.

Saying this video looks good but doesn’t make a lot of sense, sound on or off, is a valid critique.

HOWEVER: None of that matters.

Not one bit.

First, because the song is so freaking good. Seriously. Post Malone is always a good listen, on this track and his other work. Just solid.

Second, the fact that the imagery doesn’t fit the lyrics doesn’t affect your enjoyment. Sure, this thing isn’t It’s not meaningful, deep or transcendent. This video won’t become a cult classic. And you don’t care, because PSYCHO is interesting and well-shot. It’s the music video equivalent of a summer B movie: not gonna win any awards, but you’ve got a bag of $11 popcorn, the bass is loud and you’re gonna have a good time.

VERDICT: Post Malone is clearly talented, and he used a good director and film crew to make this. I’d love to see what he could do if he put all the pieces together and told a real story that matched his words.

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

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

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

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

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

You care, right away

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

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

The inner POV is trippy and beautiful

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

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

Genuine setups and payoffs leading to a beautiful ending

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

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

 

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

Verdict:

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

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

 

 

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

Who says classic music is boring?

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

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

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

RICO SUAVE by Gerardo shows the power of silly fun

A classic one-hit wonder, RICO SUAVE shows off the massive music-video firepower of being completely fun.

We’re not talking lyrics as literature here, and this music video isn’t amazing in any single area. Gerardo isn’t exactly Bruno Mars in terms of world-class singing, acting and dancing talent.

However: None of that matters, because the whole video is flat-out fun. He’s plenty good at dancing and truly talented when it comes to transmitting the emotion that, “I’m having a good time, and so should you.”

That’s a valuable skill when most rock, pop and rap stars are busy trying to look brooding, emo and/or tough.

Fun works. That’s what people want.

So here’s to you, Gerardo, who I see became and A & R exec at a record company. I still remember this video because it’s a classic four minutes and fifteen seconds of unfiltered joy.

The Avalanches get weird with FRONTIER PSYCHIATRIST

OK, I have seen music videos from around the world.

Mediocre videos of singers dancing around.

Miniature movies, with actual acting and production values.

And then there are videos like these that are just flat-out weird.

It’s interesting, but only in a “Let’s drink coffee at Denny’s until five in the morning with my friend who’s an art teacher and his girlfriend, the philosophy professor, as we try to divine the deeper meanings of this thing.”

I’m not sure there really is a deeper meaning to this video and song. But yeah, this one is different enough to be special.

Georgie Dann has talent, so why is PALOMA BLANCA so amazingly awful?

A big part of it has to be the actual talent on screen.

I’m not kidding. There’s wasted potential all over the place: the singer is obviously a pro, and it’s not his first rodeo. He’s smooth and good and the song isn’t terrible in itself.

The dancers are also clearly professionals hired to do a job, and they’ve rehearsed this thing. We’re not talking about an amateur singer who bribed in his cousin to shoot the thing on his camcorder while some neighbors dressed up and pretended to be backup dancers. Check out the costumes–they put time and money into this.

Topping it off: there’s some serious 1978 version of green screen special effects happening in the background during most of this video, and I can’t think of one use of the green screen thing that didn’t make things intensely weird.

So if you heard this song on the radio, now or back in 1978, you wouldn’t think much about it. Good voice, decent song.

It’s the visuals of this video that make it cray-cray.

My favorite is how the dancers really get into pretending to be a bird before they hopped on their bird motorcycle, put on a Fonz leather jacket and truly jumped the shark by throwing one of the dancers in the air, time after time, as he flaps his wings.

Verdict: I’ve seen this thing three times and it still makes me (a) laugh, (b) cringe and (c) wonder if Georgie Dann ever got a competent director for his stuff, because I bet he’d nail it.

How U2 turns WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME into an event and PR stunt

It’s a beautiful, timeless song–one of my all-time favorites–by a beautiful, timeless band.

And they way they released this video helped make them breakout stars.

So what’s unique about this music video?

There are three main forms in this genre: (1) backup dancers galore, (2) mini-movies and (3) “the band plays while cameras roll.” Filming a band as they play, in a studio or a concert, is the most basic type of music video.

What U2 did that made this video go viral was simple and elegant: make it real while making people curious.

With a dance video, you know what will happen: singing and dancing.

With a mini-movie, there’s a little story, but it won’t last more than 3 to 5 minutes, and you know that nothing in the short bit of film will actually affect the real life of the singer and band members. There’s an extra layer of make-believe that creates distance. And there’s also the fact that few rock and pop stars are also great actors.

With “the band plays while cameras roll,” there’s a serious lack of surprise. They’re going to play a song you’ve heard on the radio. Maybe it’ll be in concert, maybe it’ll be lip-syncing on a Hollywood studio. That’s about it.

U2 created a public event–a free concert in a big city–and made you wonder: will the cops shut it down?

And you do wonder. It truly looks like the cops will shut this down.

This makes you root for the band. They’re trying to give fans something for free. People are coming from all over to listen while the police close in.

The structure of this lets this be a longer video, with more setup before the song, building up suspense before releasing it.

That’s what makes this so effective. There are heroes and villains, with the audience rooting for the band their fans against the authorities.

And nothing says rock-and-roll more than rebelling against the System with the amplifiers turned up to 11.

Verdict: I still listen to this song and have never gotten sick of it. Great band. Great song. Great video.

Housekeeping note: Redesigned the blog and went through just about every old post (400-some) to edit, improve or archive them. Shout if you have suggestions or ideas, and thanks for reading.

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.

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”

THE SEVENTH ELEMENT by Vitas is inspired crazytown

How do I love this? Let me count the ways.

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.

So this man gets backup dancers, dressed in rejected costumes for Power Ranger minions, who don’t dance. At all.
Continue reading “THE SEVENTH ELEMENT by Vitas is inspired crazytown”

7 reasons why music videos possess tremendous power

music video meme sound of music

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.”

No. The longer you stretch out a lecture or bit of journalism, the more bored and hostile your audience will become. Because structurally, writing and speaking to inform is a horrible format for anything of length and not designed to persuade at all. (Related: Why the Inverted Pyramid must DIE) Continue reading “7 reasons why music videos possess tremendous power”

SAY IT RIGHT by Nelly Furtado is just right

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.

Nelly the Furtado, give us more like this.

YOU SPIN ME ROUND by Dead or Alive is the best of the ’80s worst

spin me right round

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.)

Top 3 reasons why YOUR LOVE by The Outfield epitomizes classic ’80s videos

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.

TAKE ME TO CHURCH by Hozier is film-noir goodness

music video meme sound of music

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.

 

Sam Smith makes a sweet short film out of I KNOW I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE

music video meme sound of music

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.