Once again, I'm in the mood to talk about music videos. Here are my takes on three recent releases from three of the biggest names in pop music today. I've been toying with the idea of writing about music videos more regularly--both current and classic ones. Before I dig into that, however, I know I need to talk about some of the biggies released earlier this year (namely both Rihanna videos and 'Telephone'). We'll see where that leads, but, for now, enjoy these write ups.
Christina Aguilera 'Not Myself Tonight' # # # # #
Before I start talking about the video, I have to get something off my chest. There's a lot of talk going around the interweb about Christina trying to imitate Lady GaGa after her immense success in the years Christina's been away. Mostly it's coming from fickle gays who have moved on to the "hot new thing" and labeled their once-beloved pop stars "has-beens," but the idea is still disconcerting. The button-pushing and outrageousness of Lady GaGa is nothing new; she's simply picking up the reins from Christina and Britney in their hey-day, who were, themselves, taking a cue from Madonna. In other words, Christina doesn't need to imitate GaGa. Have people forgotten those assless chaps from the 'Dirrty' video?! Or the striking iconography from Christina's early videos? If anything, GaGa has taken from Christina and used it in her own way for music videos such as 'Poker Face' and 'Paparazzi.' For Christina's 'Not Myself Tonight' video, she has been accused of ripping off GaGa's 'Bad Romance,' but, in all actuality, it's really an update of Madonna's 'Express Yourself.' An extremely desperate one, but an update nonetheless. Christina has always known how to sell her sexuality. While Britney was always the naughty, "who me?" innocent, Christina was more confident in her sexuality with a certain rawness that made her a refreshing alternative to virgin pop stars like Mandy and Jessica. By the time 'Dirrty' came around, assless chaps and all, we were completely non-fazed by how in-your-face the song and video were because of Christina's sexual persona. 'Not Myself Tonight' incorporates every sexual "deviancy" you could possibly think of--bondage, S&M, lesbianism, orgies--but none of it feels like anything more than hollow gestures. Christina has never needed all of this to come across as sexy and nearly three minutes of it is overkill. When Britney is at home watching the video and thinking to herself, "Wow, even I wouldn't do this disgusting shit in my video," you know you have a problem. She's so busy exploring just how far she can push the envelope that the video becomes nothing more than a collage of Christina in dominatrix gear. If, by paying homage to 'Express Yourself,' she was attempting some sort of commentary on how every "new" aggressive female in pop music is really paying tribute to someone before them, all of that was lost the minute she appeared on-screen with an blinged-out S&M gag in her mouth.
Beyoncé 'Why Don't You Love Me' # # # # #
B is back with yet another single from her I Am...Sasha Fierce album and ready to set the world afire with her latest video creation. The clip is not as revelatory as 'Single Ladies' or 'Ring the Alarm' (hell, it's not even 'Sweet Dreams') but it definitely has its moments. The general gist of the video is that Beyoncé plays a perfect 1950's housewife who wonders why, even though she's the perfect woman, her man doesn't love her. That's really about it as the five minute clip consists mainly of B posing while doing various household tasks such as the laundry or the dishes. What saves this video from damnation, however, is its commitment to the era it is portraying. Not only are the costumes and sets representative of the 1950's, but the video also adds small touches that enhance the experience. The opening credits sound exactly like a 50's sitcom intro; at some point, I expected the announcer to say that the video was sponsored by Colgate. I also loved the graininess of the film stock and how it contributed to giving the video the appearance of amateur video from the time. 'Why Don't You Love Me' isn't a masterpiece, but it will definitely tide us over until whenever B decides to release a new album.
Miley Cyrus 'Can't Be Tamed' # # # # #
Miley has been spending a lot of her time recently defending the sexy new image she's been projecting with 'Can't Be Tamed.' Parents are outraged that their wholesome Miley is wearing "provocative" outfits and singing lines like, "I go through guys like money flyin' out their hands." In all honesty, though, who didn't see this coming? Ever since that controversial Annie Leibovitz photo which dared to show her's naked back (the scandal!), Miley has taken the doe-eyed innocent approach to portraying her sexuality: she'd do something scandalous, the public would be outraged, she'd apologize and claim she was misunderstood and the whole thing would start over again. With 'Can't Be Tamed,' however, she's letting everything out in the open for the first time and isn't apologizing for it. The video opens up with Miley, a "rare bird in captivity for the first time," trapped in a birdcage for all to see and comment on. It may not be particularly subtle commentary on her position in today's pop culture, but it's something that needs to be said, particularly since the rest of the video is about her breaking free from these past constraints. The rest of the video isn't particularly groundbreaking, however Miley is definitely working on her burgeoning star mojo. I truly believe that all you need for a great music video is some kind of a hook--whether it's a particular set, dance, costume or hairstyle--and use it to the benefit of both your star persona and the song. I believe that Miley's bird costume is just strange enough yet entirely memorable and iconic to become her ticket to legitimate crossover fame. If she works this right, it could become her Catholic schoolgirl uniform or her red leather jumpsuit á la Britney.