My new series in which I go through the nominees for the MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year in each and every year. Enjoy and let me know what you think in the comments!
Overall: The reason I chose this year as my next episode in the series is because 1999 is probably the most important year in my development as both a music lover and a pre-teen. 1999 was the first year I started getting really hooked on MTV through the burgeoning beacon of early 2000's teenagedom known as TRL and you can see that influence start to trickle in on the VMA's through the nominations of Korn and the Backstreet Boys. I remember most of these videos from their first run on the channel and it was quite interesting to look back and see how well they held up in time. I must say that my memory was all over the place with this one: Korn and Ricky Martin's respective videos fared slightly worse, BSB and Lauryn Hill were about the same and Will Smith's was actually better than I remembered. Overall, I must say that 1999 was one weak-ass year. Except for the winner Lauryn Hill and possibly Korn, the rest of the videos are quite disposable. Even if on the whole the year was quite mediocre, what were the nominators smoking not to nominate Britney Spears' widely discussed and publicized debut video "...Baby One More Time" (which actually looks better as time passes with that beautiful choreography) or either of TLC's eligible videos from the year: the best song of the year (then and now) "No Scrubs" and the better video "Unpretty" (which scarred me for life with the image of the silicon boob popping out on that plate in the hospital scene).
The Best of the Nominees:
Lauryn Hill "Doo Wop (That Thing)" # # # # #
Directed by Big TV! (Andy Delaney and Monty Whitbloom)
The fact that MTV went for Hill over the special effects heavy "Freak on a Leash" or the inexplicably popular "I Want It That Way" probably has more to do with MTV trying to look respectable after her recent Grammy wins than because they felt it was truly the best music video of the year. Nevertheless, "Doo Wop (That Thing)" remains the freshest video nearly a decade later and the only nominee in this weak ass year that actually adds something to the song. By using a split screen and showing Lauryn Hill singing the same song in two very different time periods (the 60's and "modern" day), I think it's trying to reflect on both the duplicity of both the song and the singer herself. "Doo Wop" borrows from 60's soul and combines it with modern hip-hop to astonishing results with Hill proving yet again that she has the chops to carry off each genre without a hitch; the video does nothing more than exploit this heavily potent combination and does it absolutely beautifully.
The Rest (in order):
Korn "Freak on a Leash" # # # # #
Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Davis
Back in the day, I actually thought this was an interesting video, even if the music genre was way out of my taste range (then and now). When I decided to do 1999 as my next installment of this series, I was positive that this would be the video of the year, the one that just completely blows everything else out of the water. But then I watched the video again for the first time in many years and I would be lying if I didn't say I was a tad bit disappointed. Individually, all the elements of "Freak on a Leash" are wonderous: the animated opening is visually compelling, using its crude animating style to highlight Korn's crude style of music and the magic bullet special effects are extremely well-made. Together, however, it becomes just one big mish-mash of visuals that leaving me feeling rather meh. Not nearly as yawnworthy as many of the nominees in all of the categories, but not exactly the masterpiece I remembered from years ago.
Will Smith featuring Dru Hill and Kool Moe Dee "Wild Wild West" # # # # #
Directed by Paul Hunter
The scope of "Wild Wild West" is nothing to shake a stick at and I wish that more music videos would try to integrate a plot of some sort, no matter how silly or ludicrous, into the video. That being said, this video kind of cheats in that respect since it's basically using the sets and costumes from the movie it's based on and completely condensing the two hour movie into six minutes (which, I must say, basically erases any need to see that shitty movie...yowza, it's bad). Although there's no real sense of danger for Will Smith (or Salma Hayek, for that matter, although I myself would be paralyzed with fear if those tarantaluas were on me) and any video that has cameos from both Steve Wonder and Carlton is just completely shameless in its intents to rope an audience in, "Wild Wild West" is a completely fun time that, like the movie did so epically awful, is only meant to entertain you and that's fine.
Ricky Martin "Livin' La Vida Loca" # # # # #
Directed by Wayne Isham
I can't exactly blame the VMA's for nominating Ricky Martin's English-language debut "Livin' La Vida Loca" because not only did it launch a Latin craze that brought us Enrique, Marc Anthony and a pre-J. Lo Jennifer Lopez but it also suckered me into thinking that this video was the real deal. As an 11 year old, I thought that this video was fun and carefree and the song, with its blazing brass, sultry delivery, unapologetic frankness about sex, was unlike anything I had ever heard before (I must say that I was quite sheltered in elementary school). Looking back now, the song is still pretty catchy and not quite as embarrassing as you'd expect, but that video is the complete epitome of cornball. There's not one stereotype about Latin music or Latin men in general that director Wayne Isham doesn't hit on: Is Ricky a good lover? Check. Is Ricky a bandleader a la Ricky Ricardo? Check. Is there a bunch of Latinos doing crazy salsa moves and looking quite slick? Check. Fine, if not respectable during its time, but lets just leave "Livin' La Vida Loca" in '99 and never mention it again, okay?
Backstreet Boys "I Want It That Way" # # # # #
Directed by Wayne Isham
Except for possibly "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" and "Larger Than Life," it can be argued that the Backstreet Boys never really contributed anything substantial to the music video artform. Borrowing from the Take That "Back For Good"-style of standing around, doing generic "boy band" poses and a couple of small choreographed routines, the Backstreet Boys' videos were often throwaways that were only used to capitalize on the frenzy surrounding them on MTV (and, most importantly, TRL). I can see why the VMA's went for this back in 1999-- the song was an enormous success on the channel and the album it came from, Milennium, was the first album to sell one million copies in its first week-- but today it's just inexcusable that this complete waste of a video took one of the Video of the Year spots. In "I Want It That Way," the Boys literally stand around and do nothing for the entire 3 and a 1/2 minutes. There's a couple of poses and ten seconds of the lamest choreography, but mostly it's them standing in front of an airplane, standing in front of a crowd of rabid fans and walking along the airport terminal. And it doesn't even have the shamelessness of the rain sequence in "Quit Playing Games," the amazing pop song in "As Long As You Love Me" or the bright colors of "All I Have to Give" (sorry, that's the only positive I can come up for that video). "I Want It That Way" is a complete and utter waste of time that's so bad I can't believe someone actually got paid to think of this concept and direct this piece of trash.