VENGEANCE by Zack Hemsey is brutal and brilliant

Technically, this isn’t a music video, and technically, I don’t care.

IT IS THE GENIUS.

Watch, then let’s discuss.

Perfect, right? The music matches the scene.

Not a little, not a lot, but so much I want to marry it.

It’s a slow burn. Tension keeps rising and rising, until it breaks and the drums kick in and it’s like Phil Collins song except Denzel Washington is slaying bad guys with severe amounts of style.

What I love about this action sequence, and the entire movie, is how Denzel’s Washington character keeps surviving and thriving despite being outnumbered and outgunned.

In 99.9 percent of action movies, the hero wins because he’s bigger and stronger (Arnold Schwarzenegger), flexible enough to do the side splits on different planets (Jean-Claude Van Damme), has better gear (IRON MAN, BATMAN), or has superpowers.

Denzel’s character wins by being clever. It’s so much more satisfying than mowing down acre after acre of faceless bad guys before confronting the Final Boss Villain on a rooftop, at night, while it’s raining, then listening to his maniac monologue and chucking him down a chasm to get impaled on something long and sharp.

There’s no creativity in showing us that again. We have seen it 329 times.

Denzel’s character in this movie, and the sequel, wins by being smarter than the bad guys. And he does it without getting repetitive, which is refreshing and entertaining. Even the first real fight scene of this movie, he’s planning things out and out-smarting the villains.

The final Home Depot-ish fight is the most creative of all. I love how he chains his traps together, starting with the stuff on the floor to use his barbed-wire and cement bag trap, then the next thug getting speared with a gardening tool when he stops to check out the body of his buddy.

Without music, this would be a wonderful scene.

With this music, it’s iconic, and I’ve watched the thing, like, five bazillion times. Do I rewatch Schwarzenegger mowing through 200 extras in baggy uniforms again and again? No.

Hat’s off to the director and the songwriter for pulling this off.

And yes, I have seen THE LITTLE THINGS, and yes, we will chat about it later this week. A beautiful film.

Bonus: full song from the movie soundtrack.

This music video is peak internet and you are required by law to watch it

Listen, I usually (1) make fun of wealthy stars spending insane amount of dough on CGI for a music video full of cringe, or (2) explore the depths of the interwebs and sometimes go back in time to discover the obscure and bizarre.

This video is completely different.

Somebody you never heard of is playing in the park, banging on bongos, and singing words from a 1930’s song that you will not understand unless you’re from the northern parts of Finland.

Even crazier: the melody goes back to the 17th century, according to something on the series of tubes called Wikiwand, which says: “The song is sung in very heavy Eastern Savonian dialects spoken in North Karelia. It takes the point of view of a young man and a woman named Ieva/Eva/Eeva in Finnish, who sneaks away to where everyone is dancing to a polka, and dances all night.”

Who can’t get down with that?

Also: although I’m Swedish, you have to admit Finland rocks. Best education system in the world. Beat the Soviet army and their tanks during World War II with a bunch of folks running around on skis with rifles. Wrote songs about people sneaking away to dance all night way back in the 17th century. Get on with your bad self, Finland.

Here’s the original footage.

Cool, right?

Then another man who’s not a household name takes that footage, uses some video editing magic, and turns some folk polka bongo goodness into an Epic Club Remix that I have happily listened to FIVE BAZILLION TIMES.

I mean, this thing is my new jam. I could not love it more. Crank up the volume to 11 and listen.

You’ve got the sound guru, a woman dancing like nobody’s watching, Vibing Cat–and to top it, a Random Horn and Strings Section.

I could not love this more. It’s impossible. Tried to. Didn’t work.

The Kiffness, you rock. Give us moar moar MOAR.

ALL THE STARS is the perfect song for a perfect movie

black panther, all the stars, sza, kendrick lamar, chadwick boseman

Usually, I will do one of three things with a music video: (a) find an obscure and bizarre treasure to share, (b) dissect something terrible, or (c) decipher the lyrics to an amazing song.

Today, I’m listening to ALL THE STARS on repeat, and there’s a good chance this may be a weeklong tribute to Chadwick Boseman, because the man was amazing. Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, James Brown, Black Panther–the man could play anybody. Boundless talent and a bottomless heart. He visited kids in cancer wards for years and never let on that he was sick himself. Not once.

Wakanda forever, damn it.

Who actually made the first music video OF ALL TIME?

You may ask yourself, “Is that really a hard question?” And you may tell yourself, “The first was VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR, everybody knows MTV played that when it went live right after the Civil War, because Abraham Lincoln sent a telegram requesting it.”

Except all of that is wrong.

Some say the first real music videos were made in this place called Oz, a mystical land where every animal is poisonous. And there is good evidence for this, with Australian TV news staffer Russell Mulcahy shooting videos for local bands like AC/DC back in the ’70s, years before MTV went live.

So here’s a good contender:

However, there’s another video released around the same time–1975–that is a far better song, a song that’s massively famous and universally beloved. We’re talking BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY by Queen, and I could die happy if we settle on this epic as the First Music Video Ever.

Case closed.

Queen also had the first music video banned by MTV, which gives them 150,000,000 rebellious rock points, so let’s go with Queen.

Except that’s not really the first music video, not even close, because Bob Dylan was doing black-and-white music videos while inventing memes long before neckbeard edgelords were spending all their time learning the Adobe Creative Suite to make it to the front page of reddit with their HQ gifs. How do you pronounce gifs, with a G like it’s spelled or J like we’re talking peanut butter? I know the answer. Come closer and I’ll whisper it to you: “Gif is officially pronounced HOWEVER THE HELL YOU LIKE, because this is the dumbest controversy ever and I do not care one itty bitty bit.”

Here’s Bob Dylan doing his thing ten years earlier than Queen.

Okay then, we have a winner. Right?

Maybe.

Not really.

It all depends on what your definition of musical video is, and how far you want to (a) stretch it and (b) go back in time and technology. Wikipedia lists all sorts of musical short films in the 1920s, along with musical shorts / teasers that ran before the film you paid a full nickel to watch. There were Soundies in the WWII years with short dance sequences set to music and stuff happening with jazz and funky things going on in France with alien jukebox video technology (actually not really making that up, go check it out).

I mean, you could go crazy going down this rabbit hole, which I will not do, because who will pay for my therapy?

HOWEVER: What we all should agree on is that VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR is not really the first music video. At all.

It’s just the first one that MTV played.

Why KNIGHTS OF CYDONIA by Muse is total madness that still works

If you pitched this, it wouldn’t fly. “Yo, let’s spend six times our budget on a music video mini-movie that’s like a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western, except we’ll throw in a lot of Mad Max stuff and cyberpunk along with a dash of SECRET CRAY-CRAY SAUCE.”

Watch, then let’s chat.

Sure, this is weird, and ambitious, but I think they pull it off. There’s a hero, and a rough story that keeps your interest, and when it the story doesn’t quite work, you’re watching for the next moment of cray-cray. Motorcycles? Check. Laser guns? Yep. Robots? ABSOLUTELY.

It reminds me of KUNG FURY, which takes a kung fu cop, Miami Vice-vibes, time travel, Vikings with dinosaurs, and Hitler, throws all that in a blender and turns it into a short film that’s absolutely classic. Instead of upsetting you by jumping the shark, and ruining your suspension of disbelief, videos like this and movies like KUNG FURY start out by jumping the shark while that shark jumps a bigger shark before being swallowed by a space worm that gets chopped in half by a robot samurai.

VERDICT

How did I not know about this song and video before? I LOVE IT.

GET UP by the Bingo Players is pure weirdness, but in a good way

It’s not hard to find weird music videos, mostly because (a) you can’t throw a rock on YouTube without smacking five different music vids and (b) musicians tend to play it really, really safe or truly let their freak flag fly. There’s no in-between.

This video is the good kind of weird. Watch, then let’s chat about why.

Okay, so that’s definitely something I hadn’t seen before: a music video where the heroes are a gang of ducks, getting revenge on an actual gang for their misdeeds.

And yeah, there are seventeen ways this video could’ve gone wrong. But I think it works.

They set things up properly by showing the human gang doing bad things, both to other humans and to the ducks, and the ducks starting to go into action, building up suspense. Then they paid all that off with a nice variety of surprising montage of Duck Vigilante Justice with a good sense of variety and surprise, escalating to a climax. I particularly liked the duck driver–a nice touch.

VERDICT

Yes, this video is definitely weird, but the risks paid off. Well done, Bingo Players.

Should you fire up Netflix and watch EUROVISION SONG CONTEST?

Listen: comedy is incredibly hard. Maybe the hardest thing when it comes to storytelling and entertainment. Because you have to take risks, and most of those gambles won’t pay off.

This is why movies coming out of Saturday Night Live alums are hit-and-miss. A joke that gets stale and repetitive during a three-minute sketch is just about impossible to stretch into a 120-minute movie.

I swear the best comedies are made in the editing suite–throw 100 things at the wall, go wild, and have the editor and director pick the 10 things that really work while chucking the other 90.

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST may seem like one of those skits, something that might be hilarious for one song and painful to sit through for an entire movie. Check out the trailer.

I’m happy to say the opposite is true. This is fresh, funny, and surprisingly good.

The movie is set in Iceland, which needs to be featured more. It’s a wild place. Having visited there, it’s nice to see it in a major movie.

And while this is a comedy, the ending is excellent and surprisingly moving. TEARS MAY BE SHED. I won’t spoil it all by including the final song. Instead, here’s VOLCANO MAN, a great appetizer for the movie.

VERDICT

You’ve already burned through everything else on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and your brother’s DVD collection.

Give EUROVISION SONG CONTEST a go–it won’t disappoint.

1944 is a song that will make you cry

The great thing about the Series of Tubes is you stumble upon random treasures, like this cover of 1944 by Elina Ivaschenko.

Beautiful, right?

Obviously, her coach’s reaction help makes this video great. You can see and feel the joy as her singer nails this.

What hit me was the universality of music. Most of these lyrics are not in English and it doesn’t matter, because the emotion comes through, strong and clear.

I’ve seen research by ACTUAL SCIENTISTS that music has near-magical powers when it comes to generating human emotions. You can pinpoint the exact notes and chords that generate joy, sadness, and other emotions.

Here are the lyrics:

When strangers are coming
They come to your house
They kill you all
and say
We’re not guilty
not guilty
Where is your mind?
Humanity cries
You think you are gods
But everyone dies
Don’t swallow my soul
Our souls
Yaşlığıma toyalmadım
Men bu yerde yaşalmadım
Yaşlığıma toyalmadım
Men bu yerde yaşalmadım
We could build a future
Where people are free
to live and love
The happiest time
Where is your heart?
Humanity rise
You think you are gods
But everyone dies
Don’t swallow my soul
Our souls
Yaşlığıma toyalmadım
Men bu yerde yaşalmadım
Yaşlığıma toyalmadım
Men bu yerde yaşalmadım

There’s real pain and history behind the song, which is about Stalin’s deportation of the Crimea Tarters.

The original song is by Jamala, a Eurovision winner from Ukraine.

So this is one of the rare covers which improves the original. Kind of like how Meg Myers took RUNNING UP THAT HILL and transformed it into a rocket ship full of beautiful noise.

Here’s the original song for comparison.

VERDICT

11/10 for making me tear up.

DATA AND PICARD is the weirdest music video in the quandrant

Listen: there are three types of music videos.

  • Expensive Monsters, made by pop stars and rappers, and these videos have budgets bigger than the gross national product of Paraguay.
  • Shoestring Specials, shot on your buddies iPhone and edited by Carl, who dropped out of UCLA film school but still has his subscription to the Adobe Creative Suite, so you pay him in beer.
  • Obscure Weirdness, where all the wild things live.

It’s the obscure stuff that’s the most fun, because you never know what you’ll find. Sometimes it will be gross, or lame, or shocking. But other times, it’s like finding buried treasure without a pirate map.

Here’s what I just saw. Take a look and a listen.

It’s silly and stupid, right? But also brilliant. So maybe stupidly brilliant.

The sets and costumes are COMPLETELY SPOT-ON, like they bribed the night shift guy at Paramount–maybe he’s a cousin of Carl’s.

I’m loving the actor’s facial expressions, which are perfect, especially when he’s playing Data.

So: I’m required by law to like this. It’s creative, and a lot more fun than watching your average music video from a Far Too Serious Pop Star.

VERDICT: Give us more of these.

The brilliance of RUNNING UP THAT HILL by Meg Myers

Yes, this is a cover, so the original credit goes to Kate Bush–yet the Meg Myers version is hotter than a supernova. Take a listen.

And here’s the Kate Bush OG version, then we’ll talk.

The videos

Kate Bush took a risk here with the dancing, a risk that didn’t quite pay off, though anything is superior to the standard, “Watch the lead singer emote into the microphone for three minutes.” Only a few people can really pull that off, like Sinead O’Connor’s cover of NOTHING COMPARES 2U.

The video for Meg Myers is different and brilliant. Motion capture plus kids coloring each page? YES.

The music

Since the lyrics are identical, what matters for a cover is execution.

And this is where Meg Myers and her producer rock us like a hurricane. I heard the Meg version on the radio, fired up the Series of Tubes and went after “running up that hill.” Up popped the Kate Bush version, which sounded like the right song, and made me wonder if fumes in my car, my mood, or mind-control beams from Elon Musk satellites had made me simply enjoy that scratchy car-radio version more than a pristine cut on good headphones.

Which made me have a sad. Because my memory of the song on the radio was crazy good.

Then I stumbled on the Meg Myers version, and no longer believed the whole Elon Musk mind control theory AT ALL, and played her cover approximately 5,923 times in a row.

Her cover is that good.

The deeper meaning

Bad pop songs are like bad dialogue in a movie or novel: they’re on the nose, with no room for ambiguity, no hints at something more. 

The lyrics here are interesting and deep. Here they are:

It doesn’t hurt me
Do you want to feel how it feels?
Do you want to know, know that it doesn’t hurt me?
Do you want to hear about the deal that I’m making?
You, it’s you and me
 
And if I only could
I’d make a deal with God
And I’d get him to swap our places
Be running up that road
Be running up that hill
Be running up that building
See if I only could, oh
 
You don’t want to hurt me
But see how deep the bullet lies
Unaware I’m tearing you asunder
Ooh, there is thunder in our hearts
 
Is there so much hate for the ones we love?
Tell me, we both matter, don’t we?
You, it’s you and me
It’s you and me, won’t be unhappy
 
And if I only could
I’d make a deal with God
And I’d get him to swap our places
Be running up that road
Be running up that hill
Be running up that building
Say, if I only could, oh
 
You
It’s you and me
It’s you and me, won’t be unhappy
 
Oh come on, baby
Oh come on, darling
Let me steal this moment from you now
Oh come on, angel
Come on, come on, darling
Let’s exchange the experience, oh
 
And if I only could
I’d make a deal with God
And I’d get him to swap our places
I’d be running up that road
Be running up that hill
With no problems
 
Say, if I only could
I’d make a deal with God
And I’d get him to swap our places
I’d be running up that road
Be running up that hill
With no problems
 
So if I only could
I’d make a deal with God
And I’d get him to swap our places
I’d be running up that road
Be running up that hill
With no problems
 
Say, if I only could
I’d be running up that hill
With no problems
 
I believe the lyrics hit a sweet spot between “completely on the nose” and “so obscure and esoteric that seven different MFA students have written papers about it, and they all disagree.”
 
Meg Myers explains this a little during her Tiny Desk Concert with NPR, which is worth a listen for an acoustic version of the song, and for what she says about her motivation for doing the cover.
 

Verdict

Thanks for the original, Kate Bush.

And give us more like this, Meg Myers–swing for the fences, knowing you won’t hit a home run every time. Just keeps swinging. Because this cover was amazing.

Bonus content: here’s how they made the video. Impressive.