Sunday, November 15, 2009

Here Come the Girls

In the past couple weeks, not 1, not 2, but six music videos were released from four of this decade's most fascinating female pop icons and two from exciting up-and-coming popstars. As I'm sure you've heard me bemoan before, the music video is a dying art. It's very rare nowadays for any music video to become a sort of national experience as it once was during the art form's heyday. Stemming from this, it feels like most artists and record labels have practically given up, releasing cheap club videos with no creativity whatsoever. It almost makes you wonder why they bother at all. With all this in mind, I still think it's important to watch and discuss music videos because every once in awhile we get a couple that stand out above the rest and give you renewed hope in the art form. I'm not sure how many of these six will go on to become future classics, but let's talk about them anyways.

Britney Spears '3' # # # # #

For a tawdry, explicit song about the joy of threesomes and coming from the decade's Princess of Controversy, Brit's video for '3' is surprisingly tame. Lame, actually, is a more appropriate word. I find it especially disappointing coming after both 'Womanizer' and 'Circus,' two videos which proved in very different ways that Britney hadn't lost her star power and still knew how to attract an audience after the Blackout disasters. With Britney standing around and doing nothing for 3/4 of the video, '3' almost seems like a step backwards to the madness of 'Gimme More.' Then you have to consider the fact that there isn't even a hint of a threesome until nearly the two minute mark and then it's only brief and less sexier than the much ballyhooed "OM3" on Gossip Girl. The very end of the video, with its mad, frantic rush of cuts, seems to get into the feeling of the song, but by then, it doesn't even matter.

Demi Lovato 'Remember December' # # # # #

Let's start with the bad, shall we? Unfortunately, there's quite a bit of it in the should-be Queen of Disney's latest video. How about the fact that absolutely nothing happens in this video. I can live with the performance section of the video, which is actually quite stunning in certain regards, but not that horrible, tacked on bit where the obviously superior Demi is supposed to be hanging out with her peers (her Camp Rock co-stars, which includes my mortal enemy Meghan Jette Martin). What does their hanging out consist of? Sitting in a car, "jamming" out to the music and then, arms linked, walking along the street. Seriously, that's it. There's not even a big party scene! If it leads to nothing, why bother including it in the first place? It seems like someone just thought, "Well all of Demi's co-stars are right here, we might as well lump them in there just for the hell of it" and there you have the 'Remember December' video. The highlight of the video, however, is witnessing Demi become the diva glam goddess we all knew she could become. Like I stated in my tweet after seeing it for the first time, "I want to kiss whoever styled this video." The outfits--most of which include 80's Power Bitch Shoulder Pads (!!!)--are simply stunning to look at and Demi totally owns them, proving once and for all she is ready to stop being lumped in with the Disney Kids and ascend to Top 40 stardom. And all I can say is it's about damn time

Leighton Meester featuring Robin Thicke 'Somebody to Love' # # # # #

The video may not be especially groundbreaking, but I'm just grateful that after the awkwardness that was her "having fun" in the 'Good Girls Gone Bad' video, Leighton Meester pulled it together and worked her star magnetism in her debut solo video. I love that this video looks and feels sexy, but never at any point really crosses that trashy line that so many artists would have pushed through. My only major gripe with the video is that atrocious cut-out outfit in the limo portions of the video. Maybe it's just a personal preference, but I don't find tube top-esque styles flattering on small chested women.

Shakira 'Did It Again' # # # # #

I'm an enormous fan of Shakira's 'She Wolf' video for it's inherent campiness, ridiculous dance moves (I can't be the only one who has tried to replicate the butt move towards the beginning, right?) and the fun she has with the whole ridiculous set-up, so her follow up video 'Did It Again' had a lot to live up to. While it's not as great as 'She Wolf,' 'Did It Again' has some great things going for it. The impressive set piece, a bedroom dance depicting the troubled relationship in the song, actually manages to make interpretive dancing cool again and not just something pretentious morons do to make us think they're insightful. My only major complaint with the video is the random excursion to the steamroom. First of all, Shakira looks much better with her teased out sex goddess hair than flattened and in a ponytail. Secondly, the scene adds nothing to the overall video; I would have found it much more interesting had they stayed in the room the whole time (and maybe do it all in one take à la 'Single Ladies').

Rihanna 'Russian Roulette' # # # # #

I'm no fan of the song--it's growing on me slightly, but it's still slightly tuneless and a very odd choice for a first single--but the video is a complete stunner. If you thought 'Disturbia' was dark and creepy, that video is a Same Difference routine in comparison to this one. My favorite thing about 'Russian Roulette' is that it's extremely visual but suggests rather than explicitly lays everything out for us. While I enjoy videos that have a plot or something else going on besides people standing around looking pretty, it's also a relief to see a video like 'Russian Roulette' that efficiently creates an atmosphere and builds on it with every shot.

Lady GaGa 'Bad Romance' # # # # #

If you, like me, thought nothing would ever top the richness of Lady GaGa's 'Paparazzi' video, then prepare yourself for the visual masterwork that is her follow-up: 'Bad Romance.' It's almost hard to put into words what makes this video so stunning, so awe-worthy, so laudatory since everytime I watch it I'm left completely speechless by the time the last frame rolls around, but I'll try my damnedest. Since the video's premiere a few days ago, I've heard people complain that it is indeed beautiful, but much of what makes it unique (the polar bear rug outfit, for example) is totally unnecessary. I can see that viewpoint, but I'm afraid I have to completely disagree. Lady GaGa is an artist who, over the past months, has come to represent everything great about how excess can be an asset to a pop artist. She works primarily in this excess and the 'Bad Romance' video is a visual celebration of all that. The lushness of the sets and costumes can become over the top, but I think they serve a greater purpose than just for people to remark, "Oh that Lady GaGa and her weird costumes!" The scene where the dancers are crawling out of those laboratory pods wearing white spandex outfits with white masks almost covering their entire face is supposed to visually reinforce their emergence out from this cocoon-like existence, blind to everything in this strange new world; they're in their caterpillar stage ready to morph into a butterfly. Even the polar bear rug could be thought of as representing GaGa's killer instinct and a way of foreshadowing the eventual fate for the man who purchases her. Then there are the tiny moments where GaGa stares into the camera that punctuate this harsh clip with a certain deranged beauty. All of these shots--GaGa with the big round eyes, GaGa with the one tear sliding down her cheek, GaGa looking exactly like Amy Winehouse, GaGa wearing dark sunglasses and looking directly into the mirror--could have been complete throwaways but actually add to the intensity of the overall video. After the cred she got from 'Paparazzi,' this video didn't have to be good and could have just been another disappointing 'Poker Face.' I'm glad, however, that at least one artist is still challenging themselves creatively outside of the studio.


J.D. said...

Remember December is lacking a plot, yeah, but it's probably Demi's second best video (after Get Back) and it really is entirely because of her appearance/wardrobe, and the cinematography, but GODDAMN she rocks it so hard.

Somebody to Love is actually more pointless than 3, but they're both nicely shot.

You're right about Russian Roulette's video, but like, accept that it's a really good song already.

Did It Again > She Wolf.

Bad Romance < Paparazzi.

Marcy said...

Although that threesome in "3" isn't very sexy or memorable, the OM3 in GG might possibly be one of the most awkwardly cringe-inducing thing ever filmed. No comparison.

There really isn't much to say about Demi's "Remember December" video, other than the fact that I really don't like that semi-sparkly hoodie she wears.

I don't share your enthusiasm for Leighton's "Somebody to Love" MV. Leighton is obviously a gorgeous girl, but she's trying way too hard to drip of sex in the MV.

Maybe it's just a personal preference, but I don't find tube top-esque styles flattering on small chested women.

You're not alone.

I also enjoyed Shakira's "She Wolf" MV more. "Did It Again" is interesting, but I have no desire to voluntarily re-watch it.

Rihanna's "Russian Roulette" video is so damn gorgeous. And just really, really cool and visually captivating.

But...yeah, Lady GaGa's "Bad Romance" MV really takes the cake. Although the "Paparazzi" MV is great, it hasn't resonated with me the same way as the "Bad Romance" MV has. Every time I go online, I have a desire to re-watch that MV. It's this great combo of stylish WTF?-ness and mind-blowing originality.

Great, great post, James. I love (good) music videos, and I'm glad you've dedicated an entire post to this "dying art."

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