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.

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.

Hard and Complex versus Impossible and Bizarre

This is about why Flappy Bird was such a surprise hit, Taylor Swift’s newest mega-video is meh and why your favorite movies, novels and video games work when others fail.

Here’s why: audiences want something interesting, and entertaining, which means different and surprising. Yet there’s a fuzzy line between Hard and Impossible and a deadly chasm between Complex and Bizarre.

It’s like thinking, “chocolate chip cookies are yummy, so why not chocolate chip cookies with almonds, M & M’s, pecans, Oreo sprinkles, peanut butter and a Snicker’s Bar on top?”

Watch the big Taylor Swift video, BAD BLOOD, then we’ll chat.

Now, this has high production values and great costumes, and I’m sure Michael Bay watched it on an endless loop all weekend. Yet it’s not elegantly complex and entertaining. It’s a hot mess, the music video equivalent of THE EXPENDABLES, with so many random stars thrown in for cameos that I have no idea who’s who. Does it look cool? Sure. Do we care one bit? No. Not even half a bit, or a quarter bit.

Compare that to the simplicity and beauty of Iggy Azalea’s BLACK WIDOW, which is a masterpiece, paying homage to KILL BILL and flat nailing it.

Continue reading “Hard and Complex versus Impossible and Bizarre”

Why TITANIUM by David Guetta + Sia is a hidden gem

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Do you remember this song, maybe on the radio?

A good little song, long before Sia went wild with CHANDELIAR and the little dancing girl who looks like an extra from BLADE RUNNER.

So this music video isn’t famous at all. Yet it should be.

It’s a short film with an actual plot and production values. They don’t do the usual trick of “let’s show the lead singer and the band 16 times, interrupting the thin story.” Not even once.

This little snippet of film could be the hook for an X-Men movie, with a lead character everybody can relate to and an actual plot.


Pop Danthology 2014 absolutely destroys all music video compilations, forever

Pop Danthology 2014

Making a compilation video is tough enough, even if you own Final Cut Pro Version 11.7, the One That Costs More than Your Car.

Doing one of music videos ups the difficulty even more, since you probably need to be a DJ, or randomly own a sound board and have years of experience using it.

This compilation and mix of 2014 music videos is beyond masterful. Check it out. DO IT NOW.

What say you: is there a better compilation for 2014, or any other year? Offer video evidence. Bring it.

(Note: Going with DJ Earworm in 2009 is a cheat. Sorry. Not allowed).

The six types of insane song lyrics

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If you love music, and music videos, you start seeing patterns.

Here’s what I’ve learned from dissecting lyrics and making fun of music videos: it’s easy to put them into categories, both amazingly awful and insanely great, and there are SIX KINDS, because I say so.

The six types are:

1) Boring Pop Songs

These are trite little pieces of drivel, sung by boy bands, Justin Bieber and Britney Spears, written at a fourth-grade level because they’re meant to be consumed by seventh-graders.

It’s the kind of thing that makes the average Madonna song look deep.

What’s the acid test for Boring Pop Songs? If you do a “find and replace” in word for “oh baby” and half the lyrics disappear.

2) Pretentious Pop

Vivid imagery that’s poetic, yet confusing. That’s your basic recipe for pretentious pop, which is equally bad whether it’s (a) some boy band trying to get deep or (b) Sting trying to show everybody he went to college, and yes, I adore the Stinger, so that’s said out of love, because he usually hits the mark. Related: Sting nails it with WHY SHOULD I CRY FOR YOU?

Here’s some infamous nonsense from The Decemberists, who specialize in Pretentious Pop:

Fifteen lithesome maidens lay
Along in their bower
Fourteen occupations pay
To pass the idle hour

3) Cryptic Yet Meaningful Goodness

AMERICAN PIE is the best example of this. Are the lyrics deep and confusing? Absolutely. Yet if you dig deep into it, line-by-line, they make sense.

Continue reading “The six types of insane song lyrics”

DOWN ON MY LUCK by Vic Mensa is different and special

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Typically, I usually dive into the lyrics of a song, dissecting the true meaning of ELECTRIC AVENUE or parsing every line of Vanilla Ice’s unappreciated classic, ICE, ICE BABY, which was tarnished only by his lame followup song about ninja turtles and his habit of trashing sets and terrorizing TV journalists, though now Vanilla is all grown up and remodeling houses on television or whatever.

This music video by Vic the Mensa is the rare beast where the visuals are more worthy of dissecting. Check it out.

Vic does something unusual here, turning a music video into a short film where his character repeats the same scene in a nightclub again and again, with different choices and results.

If you’re a screenwriter, you’ll start throwing out RASHOMON references and point out how this is nothing like MEMENTO, since that movie reversed the order of all scenes. To get technical, this music video is more like GROUNDHOG DAY or THE EDGE OF TOMORROW, which the studios are renaming LIVE, DIE REPEAT instead of the original comic title, which is far more superior – ALL YOU NEED IS KILL.

Back to this video: This piece by Vic is far, far better than the typical music videos where (a) the lead singer looks mournful while he croons about lost love, (b) the lead singer tries to look sexy while backup dancers gyrate, or (c) random things happen in slow motion because the director thought it would be awesome to hire a bunch of art students do smash eggs on their heads and such, making the video somehow deep.

I appreciate how there are new twists every time, with the sequences lining up with Vic’s lyrics.

He avoided all the usual clichés and gave us something different. Well played.

The poetry of TEAM by Lorde

music video meme sound of music

We live in an age when “Boom! Crash!” passes as a good foundation for the lyrics of a hit song. So this young upstart from NZ, Lorde, is quite refreshing in how she treats lyrics as a chance for some poetry set to music.

Maybe she gets it from her mother, a famous poet. I don’t even care if her mom helps write the lyrics, since just about every band these days hires songwriters, choreographers and engineers at the mixboard. You can buy everything and simply show up, if you want.

Here’s the music video, which is interesting:

And below are the lyrics. I like how she flips things, saying a line once, then twisting it the next time. About the only thing to pick on are the “so there” lines, which felt out of place amidst all the imagery and goodness. But it’s a far, far cry from your typical pop song.

TEAM by Lorde

Wait ’til you’re announced
We’ve not yet lost all our graces
The hounds will stay in chains
Look upon Your Greatness and she’ll send the call out
(Send the call out) [15x]

Call all the ladies out
They’re in their finery
A hundred jewels on throats
A hundred jewels between teeth
Now bring my boys in
Their skin in craters like the moon
The moon we love like a brother, while he glows through the room

Dancing around the lies we tell
Dancing around big eyes as well
Even the comatose they don’t dance and tell

We live in cities you’ll never see on screen
Not very pretty, but we sure know how to run things
Living in ruins of a palace within my dreams
And you know, we’re on each other’s team

I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air, so there
So all the cups got broke shards beneath our feet but it wasn’t my fault
And everyone’s competing for a love they won’t receive
‘Cause what this palace wants is release

We live in cities you’ll never see on screen
Not very pretty, but we sure know how to run things
Living in ruins of a palace within my dreams
And you know, we’re on each other’s team

I’m kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air
So there
I’m kinda older than I was when I revelled without a care
So there

We live in cities you’ll never see on screen
Not very pretty, but we sure know how to run things
Living in ruins of a palace within my dreams
And you know, we’re on each other’s team
We’re on each other’s team
And you know, we’re on each other’s team
We’re on each other’s team
And you know, and you know, and you know

Deconstructing the classic ROUND HERE by Counting Crows

music video meme sound of music

Not because of the lead singer’s epic dreadlocks and facial hair, which I’d argue are less of an Epic Win and more of an Achy Breaky Big Mistakey.

There is no mistaking the genius of this song, though.

The music video may be nothing insanely special, but the actual song and lyrics are haunting and well-done.

Also, do not confuse Counting Crows with the Black Crows, a completely different band. The Black Crows singer dated or married that blonde actress from ALMOST FAMOUS, while the Counting Crows singer dated the blonde actress who was married to Brad Pitt.

Here’s the video in all of it’s ancient, low-res glory:

Now let’s dive into the words.


Step out the front door like a ghost
into the fog where no one notices
the contrast of white on white.
Oh, this is poetry, and light years beyond the juvenile lyrics of your typical pop song. What a great beginning.

And in between the moon and you
the angels get a better view
of the crumbling difference between wrong and right.
He’s not done! More poetry, with moral ambiguity and shades of gray that don’t involve bad TWILIGHT fanfic. Beautiful, and not a single “Oh baby oh baby” in sight.

I walk in the air between the rain
through myself and back again
Where? I don’t know
Translation: I am overcome with ennui and existential angst. Or I killed a bottle of Maker’s Mark and wandered outside at 2 a.m. during a thunderstorm. You pick.

Maria says she’s dying
through the door I hear her crying
Why? I don’t know
Translation: Women, they confuse me. There is no handbook, and I am not a medical doctor, though college professors who insist upon being addressed as “Doctor” are pretentious nancypants. You’re not a doctor unless you wear a stethoscope and wield a scalpel.

Round here we always stand up straight
Round here something radiates
Translation: This town has a special something, unlike other towns and all the faceless suburbs where if you dropped somebody in the middle of the strip malls and Applebee’s, they wouldn’t know whether it was the outskirts of Atlanta, Seattle or San Jose, with the same Home Depots and Staples and Taco Bells wherever you go. Our town is unique, in good and bad ways. There also could be radioactive waste coming from an old nuke plants. Not sure yet.

Maria came from Nashville with a suitcase in her hand
she said she’d like to meet a boy who looks like Elvis.
Hey, Elvis is still hot.

She walks along the edge of where the ocean meets the land
just like she’s walking on a wire in the circus.
Back to poetry! A great line.

She parks her car outside of my house
takes her clothes off
says she’s close to understanding Jesus.
She knows she’s just a little misunderstood.
She has trouble acting normal when she’s nervous
Translation: Girl be crazy.

Round here we’re carving out our names.
Round here we all look the same.
Round here we talk just like lions
but we sacrifice like lambs.
Round here she’s slipping through my hands
Translation: This town is rather homogeneous, with big talkers who cave under pressure, and yes, that’s how you spell homogeneous. It has that many “e’s” for some stupid reason. Also, despite the low bar for normal behavior and courage around here, I’m losing the Crazy Hot Girl, emphasis on crazy.

Sleeping children better run like the wind
out of the lightning dream.
Mama’s little baby better get herself in
out of the lightning.
Translation: Maybe I should stop chugging this bottle of Maker’s Mark out in the rain.

She says, It’s only in my head.
She says, Shhh I know it’s only in my head.
But the girl in car in the parking lot
says, “Man you should try to take a shot
can’t you see my walls are crumbling?”
Then she looks up at the building
and says she’s thinking of jumping.
She says she’s tired of life.
She must be tired of something.
Translation: This town has worn the girl down so much, she may give me a shot at a relationship, even if it’s only physical. Or she might jump off a building. Flip a coin. Also, girl be CRAZY.

Round here she’s always on my mind.
Round here hey man got lots of time.
Round here we’re never sent to bed early
and nobody makes us wait.
Round here we stay up very, very, very, very late.
Translation: Though the Crazy Hot Girl is flawed and troubled, I’m haunted by her, so much so that I’m sleepless. Also, there’s no curfew. At all.

I can’t see nothin’, nothin’, round here.
Translation: Opportunities in this town are rare. 

No, you catch me when I’m falling.
You catch me if I’m falling.
You catch me if I’m falling down on you.
Translation: As the great philosopher Cher said, “I’ve got you, babe.”

Oh man I said, “I’m under the gun”
round here.
I have no idea what this means and whether this gun is literal or metaphorical. No clue.

Oh man I said, “I’m under the gun”
round here.
And I can’t see nothing, nothing,
round here.
Translation: I, too, see the merit in Crazy Hot Girl’s diagnosis of this town as being a hopeless place, and I may consider drowning myself in cases of Marker’s Mark or adopting her plan of swan-diving off a building. Or I’ll write sad songs about it, make bazillions and date hot actresses. Not sure yet.

WORD CRIMES by Weird Al is a writer’s anthem

music video meme sound of music

Back in the day, Weird Al Yankovic was proudly, loudly weird. Today, he’s the master of parody videos, which keep getting better and better.

This one is a dream for writers and editors everywhere. He speaks the truth. Sing it, Al, and let the rumors that you’re retiring be false.


IT’S GOOD TO BE IN LOVE by Frou Frou conceals writing truths

music video meme sound of music

You know the singer from Frou Frou better under the name Imogen Heap, famous for the song HIDE AND SEEK.

Whatever name she sings under, this song here is not only good, but interesting for writers of all stripes, whether you write mysteries involving British grandmothers and talking cats, movies starring transforming robots from Planet Michael Bay or pop songs for Frankenstein bands put together by Simon Cowell.

Watch and listen, then we’ll dissect the lyrics and notice something useful.

Here are the lyrics, with notes in red.


I don’t know where to start
Say I’m tired or throw a party
These cucumber eyes are lying the more that i smile about it
And all of my clothes feel like somebody’s old throwaways
I don’t like it

All this is interior monologue. She’s saying what she’s thinking and feeling, and while she’s seriously bummed, it’s all truthful.

It’s good to be in love
It really does suit you
Just like everything
I’m happy you’re in love
‘Cause every color goes where you do

The verses above are straight dialogue, spoken to her lost love. Every word is a HUGE PACK OF LIES.

Hollywood screenwriters say this is real dialogue, because nobody says what they truly mean, especially when they’re hurt.

How do you spot bad dialogue? Look for people saying exactly what they mean and feel.

I’m adoring you
It’s all good
You’re so beautiful
I’m black and blue all over
You’re breaking my flow
How could you know what I’m saying about it
When all of my clothes feel like somebody’s old throwaways
I don’t like it

Oh, this is beautiful. She switches right back to interior monologue, and the truth, tweaking and twisting the first verses. Well played. It’s like a good action movie or thriller novel, with alternating chapters: one from the hero’s POV, one from the villains, back and forth.

It’s good to be in love
It really does suit you
Just like everything
I’m happy you’re in love
‘Cause every color goes where you do

Back to the chorus and straight dialogue. You could argue this is what she’s saying to her lost love and what she’s trying to convince herself of, but either way, there’s tremendous tension here between the inner monologue and the spoken dialogue. Love it.

I feel so powerless
I’ve got to stop it somehow
Oh come on what can i do?
Why’s it happening
How’s it happening without me
Why’s it happening
How’s it happening that he feels it without me

More truth from inner monologue, with the stakes raised.

It’s good to be in love
It really does suit you
Just like everything
I’m happy you’re in love
‘Cause every color goes where you do

Back to the chorus. Is the tension resolved? No. Not at all. And the song is better, and perfectly balanced, because of that.

Fireworks set to music, from a drone flying INSIDE THE FIREWORKS

music video meme sound of music

So this Random Man on the Interwebs — and yes, that line is the modern version of, “A man walks into a bar .. ” — this Random Man, he put a high-def camera on a drone. Then he flew it above a fireworks show, took the drone inside exploding fireworks and set the video it to music.

Result? Magic.


Throne gets trippy with the first embroidered music video ever

music video meme sound of music

This video isn’t computer animated. They made the entire thing, screen by screen, with stitches on black cloth.

We’re talking about possibly the first music video created through embroidery, which I can’t even spell. And it’s by a heavy metal band.

Though I’m not a fan of all the various forms of metal (heavy metal, speed metal or even Swedish death metal), this is a unique and creative video that deserves to be seen and taken apart. Interesting. Well done, monsters of metal, whoever you are.

Success is often accidental

success kid

How many times have you seen somebody trip, or do something stupid, then they act like, “Oh, I meant to do that?”

The reverse is actually more interesting: you did something random and unintentional and it turned out great.

I didn’t write a silly blog post with the intention of WordPress putting it on the front page. Which is probably why they did. You can’t force it.

Here’s that post: How weird news teaches us great storytelling

So a big thanks to the editors at WP and all the people who visited, commented and subscribed.

FANCY by Iggy happily subverts CLUELESS, start to finish

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Weeks ago, I saw this video by Australian import (and model) Iggy and was blown away.

And now this song has hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts, and I believe No. 2 is … a song she’s featured on.

Note: don’t get overly worried about the warning at the front of this video. I believe there’s one brief f-bomb, which you’ll probably miss unless you listen hard, and there’s no violence or nudity or whatever. It’s the tamest video I can remember getting tagged like this. Maybe the folks who rate music videos need a middle ground, a PG-13 instead of making everything G or R.

What’s really interesting is why this video works so well. Watch and we’ll talk.

Here’s the thing: the entire music video mocks the movie CLUELESS, start to finish, yet it does it so skillfully that you don’t need to have watched Alicia Silverstone’s magnum opus to get the joke. I bet 80 percent of Iggy’s fans were maybe in first grade back then and wouldn’t know Alicia Silverstone if she ran them over in a silver Mercedes.

But Iggy does it anyway, and her attention to details is glorious. Check out this recap.

Even if you never saw CLUELESS, the video rocks. You can tell she’s making fun of the character she portrays, and everything about high school, but not in a snobby hipster way. She’s having fun the whole time, and that energy comes through. Great job, Iggy – give us more.

Crazy storm + music = mind-blowing video

music video meme sound of music

Super Cells aren’t what you put into a life-sized version of Optimus Prime — you know, to make him growl lame dialogue to Shia Labooooooof in the latest Michael Bay explosion-fest.  (Yes, I know Shia isn’t in the new film, which has Optimus and Marky Mark riding on flying robot dinosaurs to save the world by blowing up a hemisphere or two.)

Super Cells are a type of storm, and when you see this video, you’ll understand why they are truly Super.

Also: what’s the music playing? I believe it’s an instrumental version of Shakira’s single, EMPIRE, and here you go with that music video, which may be worth dissecting later. Do the images make narrative sense by themselves, if you take away the lyrics? Hmm. Do the lyrics make sense if you strip away the video with the burning wedding dress and such? Nah. That may the the problem here. I like the song, though.


PLEASE USE THIS SONG wins the interwebs

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It’s no secret why many bands let giant corporations use their songs in advertising: musicians are starving artists. There will always be more talented musicians in the world than money to support them.

So musicians have a few choices. They can work a day job and do gigs on weekends, milk their One Hit Wonder for 20 years, try to make a living on tour — or sell their music for commercials, movies, theme parks, whatever pays the bills. Usually, there is no One Hit Wonder, no tour, no sales to record labels or car commercials. The struggle to pay the bills become a struggle for artistic life or death, because if you’ve got no money, you’ve got no free time to do what you love.

Hey, I sympathize. Artistic purity is great until you have to pay the bills. I think it’s almost easier to make a living writing the words, even as newspapers die off as if an asteroid came to kill the dinosaurs, than to do it plucking a guitar.

This video by Jon Lajoie, now, is crazy funny because you can smell the truth in it.

Well done, Jon and bandmates. I hope a corporation with a sense of humor actually buys the rights to use your song to sell something, anything at all, because you have won the Series of Tubes.

What YMCA by the Village People can teach us

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This is a classic song from the late ’70s, and it’s worth talking about for a few reasons.

First, the People of the Village prove that band members don’t need to dress the same, seeing how every other rock and punk band tries to stand out by putting on matching (a) black leather jackets and black guyliner, (b) spandex with long, permed blond locks, possibly paying homage to Heather Locklear or (c) ironic suits and ties worn with red Converse sneakers.

You don’t need to memorize the band members in the Village People because their outfits give you a handy shorthand. Plus it’s more interesting. Even KISS understands this and varied the crazy costumes and makeup enough so fans could dress as their favorite instead of throwing on a generic leather jacket and some mascara to be “you know, somebody from the Flaming Squirrels, maybe the  drummer.”

Variety is good, even when it comes to the hairstyles of boy bands, which should be banned by the Music Police.

Second, this song proves the power of third-party validation. That’s a fancy way of saying, “Hey, it’s great that every singer, actor and C-list celebrity talks smack about how great they are, yet their ethos is crazy weak when they do so, seeing how we look sideways at their sincerity and self-interest. What’s far more believable, and effective, is to praise somebody — or something — that doesn’t share your first and last name.”

Instead of singing a song where the Village People brag about how many boats they own, and how their singing is so great that we know there’s life on Mars because there are 17 different Village People superfan clubs in the southern hemisphere of that planet alone, they spend an entire song bragging on this unlikely place: your humble, local Y.

And they make it fun, and memorable. This video gave birth to a little YMCA dance of forming the letters people around the world know.

Billy Squire wrecks his career with ROCK ME TONITE

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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.

I LIKE THE WAY YOU WORK IT is epic, brilliant and classic

music video meme sound of music

Have you ever heard a song on the radio and flipped out?

I don’t mean “Yeah, they were playing Swedish death metal on 107.7 and it created a Hulk-like rage in me, so I rammed my Ford Ranger into an abandoned warehouse and took a sledgehammer to all that rusty sheet metal until the cops hauled me off and put me in the drunk tank next to this dude who keeps telling me how drinking Nyquil is way better than downing Mad Dog.”

What I’m talking about is the radio comes on, and instead of madly flipping stations to find somebody playing a song that’s not by (a) Miley “Train Wreck” Cyrus, (b) a folksy rock band trying to copy Mumford and Sons or (c) Mumford and Sons, you get (d) a song so complete and perfect that you want the DJ to go nuts, lock himself in the studio and endlessly loop the thing until they meet his ransom demands for a box of Crispy Cremes, a better headset and coffee that doesn’t double as engine degreaser.

I LIKE THE WAY YOU WORK IT was that song for me this week.

Heard it on the radio. Immediately fired up the Series of Tubes and found the video. Played it. Played it again with the sound cranked up to 11. I’m playing it again RIGHT NOW.

Here’s the video, which new artists should slow down and dissect like Jon Gruden freeze-framing a fade route.

Why is this so great? Not just the excellent song. The video makes it better, sexy without crossing the line to vulgar, cool without trying to hard and funny with the little doll versions of the artists playing piano and singing.

Also, the cinematography is top-notch, whereas most music videos look like they grabbed the nearest roadie who looked semi-sober, handed him an iPhone and said, “Hit record while we prance around and lip synch.”

THE FOX by Ylvis is pure nutty goodness

music video meme sound of music

When is something so bad that it circles back to good?

Well, here’s one example: THE FOX by Norwegian duo Ylvis.

The melody sounds like late ’80s emo from Savage Garden, with lyrics set down after hanging around a room full of five-year-olds who’ve had too many juice boxes.

For true music video fans, the actual lyrics are below.

THE FOX by Ylvis

Dog goes woof
Cat goes meow
Bird goes tweet
and mouse goes squeek

Cow goes moo
Frog goes croak
and the elephant goes toot

Ducks say quack
and fish go blub
and the seal goes ow ow ow

But theres one sound
That no one knows
What does the fox say?

What the fox say?

What the fox say?

What the fox say?

What the fox say?

Big blue eyes
Pointy nose
Chasing mice
and digging holes

Tiny paws
Up the hill
Suddenly youre standing still

Your fur is red
So beautiful
Like an angel in disguise

But if you meet
a friendly horse
Will you communicate by

How will you speak to that
What does the fox say?

What the fox say?

What the fox say?

A-hee-ahee ha-hee!
A-hee-ahee ha-hee!
A-hee-ahee ha-hee!
What the fox say?

What does the fox say?

The secret of the fox
Ancient mystery
Somewhere deep in the woods
I know youre hiding
What is your sound?
Will we ever know?
Will always be a mystery
What do you say?

You’re my guardian angel
Hiding in the woods
What is your sound?

(Fox Sings)
Wa-wa-way-do Wub-wid-bid-dum-way-do Wa-wa-way-do

Will we ever know?

(Fox Sings)

I want to

(Fox sings)

I want to
I want to know!

(Fox sings)
Abay-ba-da bum-bum bay-do


HO HEY by The Lumineers

music video meme sound of music

This is a simple little song with a simple little video that still manages to ROCK THE HOUSE.

Also, I don’t really hear much of a difference between the Ho! and the Hey! parts, but hey, that’s artistic license and such.

Also-also: There’s something of a trend of Mumford and Son types, musicians wearing suspenders while playing folksy rock that involves (a) a banjo, (b) a bass and (c) harmonicas or whatever.

This is a good thing, though it will certainly snowball into some kind of trend where record executives start signing up folks bands with accordians instead of amplifiers faster than an aspiring writer can tell you about their YA series that is NOT inspired — they swear — by Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, because they have a school of witches, not wizards, and the zombies show up on page 392.

Also-cubed: As for the controversy over whether The Lumineers (original band name: The Night Lights) are singing “You’re my sweetheart” or “You’re my sweet home” — the answer is, “sweet heart.”

Here’s the video. Watch it. DO IT NOW, because YouTube / the Google needs your clicks and money or whatever before their stock starts doing the Facebook nosedive.

For word nerds around the world, the lyrics:

(Ho!) I’ve been trying to do it right
(Hey!) I’ve been living a lonely life
(Ho!) I’ve been sleeping here instead
(Hey!)I’ve been sleeping in my bed,
(Ho!) sleeping in my bed (Hey!)

(Ho!) So show me family
(Hey!) Or the blood that I would bleed
(Ho!) I don’t know where I belong
(Hey!) I don’t know where I went wrong
(Ho!) But I can write a song

I belong with you, you belong with me
You’re my sweetheart
I belong with you, you belong with me
You’re my sweet


(Ho!) I don’t think you’re right for him
(Hey!) Leave the world it might have been
(Ho!) Took a bus to china town
(Hey!) I’ll be standing on canal
(Ho!) And bowery (hey!)
(Ho!) She’d be standing next to me (hey!)

I belong with you, you belong with me
You’re my sweetheart
I belong with you, you belong with me
You’re my sweetheart

And love, we need it now
Let’s hope for some
Cause oh, we’re bleeding out

I belong with you, you belong with me
You’re my sweetheart
I belong with you, you belong with me
You’re my sweetheart


Journalists just wanna have fun

media strategy saturday meme

As a reformed journalist, I can tell you secret things.

Number One: Coffee.

If you want to make a reporter smile, or an editor not growl at you, feed them industrial amounts of coffee.

Number Two: Stress requires unstressing.

Journalists do a stressful job for tiny amounts of monies, and they’re under the Most Insane Deadline Pressure Known to Man, which makes them look for ways to unwind.

Here are my favorite journalists finding ways to unstress.

First we’ve got Bob Herzog.

Bob’s a TV reporter from Local 12 in Cincinatti who took the thankless job of “Traffic Reporter, A Job We Sometimes Have Interns Do” and turned it onto a “Dancing King of the Glowing Tube.”

Then we’ve got WGN anchors Robert Jordan and Jackie Bange, who look quite Serious and Somber while delivering the news.

Once they hit the commercial break, they transform into silly nutballs and do a special shebang, which they’ve honed over the years to take up exactly two minutes.

Also, just because I can, the original Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cindi the Lauper.

The Killers once covered Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.

Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj covered it EVEN BETTER.


This is Guy Bergstrom the writer, not the Guy Bergstrom in Stockholm or the guy in Minnesota who sells real estate or whatever. Separate guys. Kthxbai.
Guy Bergstrom. Photo by Suhyoon Cho.

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award (PNWA 2013). Represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.

XANAX by Maria Taylor will not put you to sleep

music video meme sound of music

This is an unusual and interesting song. Is it slow or fast?

Methinks this is neither — that it’s a sneaky rocker that manages to be fast while going slow, and to loud while being soft. That’s a neat trick, especially in this Wall of Sound era where every pop song is cranked up to 11.

There isn’t an official music video on the Series of Tubes, far as I know. The home-made version by Kesley or Tiffany or whatever is the best thing around.

There is a live version of it, though. HERE YOU GO:

And, just for kicks, here are the lyrics. I will not dissect them. They are not unusually crazy or brilliant — they simply work.

Afraid of an airplane
Of a car swerving in the lane
Of a dark cloud too low
Or being swept away by the undertow
Of a building tumbling down
Of the train when it’s underground
Of the icy mountain roads
We have to take to get to the show

There’s just a time when we must all let go the breath that we hold
There’s just a time when we must all let go the breath that we hold
You know, the unknown we have to let go

Afraid when the phone rings
Another breath of life has ceased
It seems it’s just lost so easily

Afraid my heart, it beats too slow
Or that I died and just didn’t know
Or of a fate I will have to choose
And I’m afraid of how much I love you

There’s just a time when we must all let go the breath that we hold
There’s just a time when we must all let go the breath that we hold
You know, the unknown we have to let go

It’s just now that I’ve found a place where I can breathe
It’s just now that I’ve found a place where I can sleep
It’s just now that I’ve found a place where I can breathe
It’s just now that I’ve found a place where I can sleep
It’s just now that I’ve found a place where I can breathe
It’s just now that I’ve found a place where I can sleep
It’s just now that I’ve found a place where I can breathe
It’s just now that I’ve found a place where I can sleep