Monday, January 28, 2008

The Best Music Video

I was alive when MTV first came out. I remember watching MTV with my uncle (who was just a little older than me -- those crazy Catholic families!) and my older brother (also just a little older than me) when I was about 16 or so, and MTV had been around long enough that the novelty had worn off.

This was long before I noted the trend in music videos that lets you instantly know, even with the sound turned off, what kind of music you're watching.

I just re-read that sentence, and had to stop and think whether it made sense. But it did. Imagine if you could go back in time and say to Mozart, "There will come a time when you can use the phrase "what kind of music you're watching" and it will make sense. I bet I know just what he would say:

Ich bin traurig, spreche ich nur Deutsches, also verstand ich Sie nicht, verr├╝ckte Person von der Zukunft.

(Which is German for "I'm sorry, I only speak German, so I didn't understand you, crazy person from the future ")

My theory on music videos is this, before I get further sidetracked from the sidetrack I was on: Each category of music has its own "type" of video that it doesn't stray far from. Take emo/pop punk (Like Jimmy Eat World or The All-American Rejects). Groups like that make videos that show the group playing in some unusual location with people going about their ordinary business around them. So they play their music in a pool (Jimmy Eat World's "The Middle") or on a beach (Blink 182's "All the Small Things") or a parade (My Chemical Romance's "Welcome To The Black Parade.") This is meant to show, I think, how unusual and out-of-step the bands, or we, are.

Meanwhile, rappers and hip-hoppers videos are only parties or dance contests (Rihanna, "Pon de Replay," Jay-Z and Beyonce, "Crazy In Love") while heavy metal and hard rockers invariably lean towards concert footage mixed with drinking. The messages here are even more obvious -- hip hoppers are crowd-pleasing dance partiers, while rockers are, well, rockers.

I know, I know: there are those who break the mold, but far fewer than you think.

So I was about 16, and we were watching videos, and the video for The Police's "Synchronicity II" came on. That's the one that has a post-apocalyptic Sting looking all Billy-Idoled and singing from what appears to be a dump equipped with sound equipment. And, frankly, none of it makes sense. The song title itself is dumb -- "Synchronicity II?" Nobody ever heard Synchronicity I, which is also apparently a song. The lyrics also talked about the mundanity of everyday life, painting a picture of people's daily existence, while, apparently, Grendel was coming forth to attack them. Or the Loch Ness monster. I'm not sure what Sting meant. But worst of all, the video had nothing to do with the song. Nothing at all. And I said so to my brother and my uncle; I said "This video has nothing to do with the song."

They just laughed. They never even explained why they laughed, and I was left, as usual, wondering what it was that the cool people got that I didn't.

So that's yet another reason why I hate people. But it's also a reason to hate music videos-- because MTV showed me (as so many other things have shown me) just how uncool I was, but also because the videos made the lyrics to the song pointless; why write a song about people's everyday lives being threatened by something crawling from a dark Scottish loch if you're going to illustrate it by having Sting strut around a garbage dump in Billy Idol's hand-me-downs?

But one video, ultimately, cut through and won me over, and that video is The Best Music Video. It's the video for Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice." Here's the lyrics for "Weapon of Choice:"

Don't be shocked by the tone of my voice
Check out my new weapon, weapon of choice
Don't be shocked by the tone of my voice
Check out my new weapon, weapon of choice
Listen to the sound of my voice
You can check it all out, it's the weapon of choice
Don't be shocked by the tone of my voice
It's the new weapon, weapon of choice

[2x Chorus:]You can go with this,Or you can go with that,You can go with this,Or you can go with that,You can go with this,Or you can go with that,Or you can throw with (us)

Walk without rhythm it won't attract the worm
Walk without rhythm and it won't attract the worm
Walk without rhythm and it won't attract the worm
If you walk without rhythm ah, you never learn
. . . .

Organically grown, through the hemisphere I roam
Too big love to the angels of light
Yeah, and my girl
She just don't understand
Is gone beyond being a man
As I drift off into the night, I'm in flight
She's a Boy scout no doubt
but I'm going to hold my cool,
because of easy rules
Yeah, so move on baby, yeah
Halfway between the gutter and the stars, yeah
Halfway between the gutter and the stars, yeah

How are you ever going to illustrate that and have it make sense? Simple. You get Christopher Walken to dance around a hotel:

I love this video, and named it The Best, for two reasons: first, it so completely divorces the song from the video -- is so devoid of any link to the song-- that in a tantric way it comes completely around and could not be more related to the song. (Don't think about that too long.)

Second, because of how cool Christopher Walken's dance is. If I win the lottery, I am going to spend all of my time teaching myself to do that dance, and then buy a hotel to do it in. That's right: I will devote my life to recreating this video. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

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