So the typical traffic accident of Christmas television programming was driving me crazy with the usual parade of useless bullshit – the twenty-four hour benzodipaine cycle of Home Alone, A Christmas Story, and the idiotic Top Whatever Countdowns of 2009 – and, as the coffee maker sputtered and farted to inform me that I could finally enjoy my liquid brown sunshine, I stopped surfing randomly at what turned out to be MTVhit (that’s channel 214 for those of you with Verizon Fios). They were doing a countdown of… well I’m not entirely certain what they were doing a countdown of, but it appeared to be the Top Shit Videos of All Time Ever in the Universe.
I landed on the last moments of ‘Run This Town’ by Jay-Z, Rihanna, and Kanye West, with its very explicit sense of impending gang related violence begging the repetitive musical question ‘S’up?’ and was then regaled with the horrors of the Beyonce, er, hit ‘Single Ladies.’
Now, having spent last holiday season exiled to the ‘hood, I am painfully aware of this particular song. The local Hip Hop/R&B radio station played it every fifteen or twenty minutes every day for months – part of a brain-softening ten song playlist of the worst excuses for music I have ever heard.
Fortunately I had managed to escape the video. Honestly, MTV – the so-called ‘Music Television’ – hasn’t been in the music video (or music) business for years, so who can really give a damn about anything they do? Honestly I was surprised to find that they are not only still broadcasting but that they had branched out into other little MTV clones that also don’t have the slightest fucking thing to do with music.
So I stopped dead in the doorway between my kitchen and living room, steaming hot cup of Kenya AA in hand, and stared in disbelief at this video.
What the fuck is this thing? I mean, yeah, back in the 80s you had shit videos like The Culture Club’s ‘Karma Chameleon’ and the embarrassing primer on How Not To Make a Music Video ‘Gloria’ by the late Laura Branigan, but it’s almost 25 years later! Do all videos suck this badly now? Surely we’ve advanced from the primitive days of the glitter ball and spandex tights!
What was the director’s concept:
‘Right. Whatever. I want you to jerk your head, kind of like this, and then run in a little circle as we flash the lights. Can you spread your thighs really wide, maybe squat a little – like this – and waggle your leg fat in a really unbecoming manner? Maybe do something with your hands, like wave them like they’re on fire or asleep or something like that?’
‘How am I supposed to sing?’
‘Singing? Who cares about singing? Ask Ashlee Simpson or Milli Vanilli. Well, it’s just Milli now. Vanilli’s dead. But my point is, it’s all about lip syncing and using electronic pitch correction. Can you waggle that fat for me, baby? Make it look real slutty? Oh, and – here – wear this cool cyborg glove for me, will ya? It’s kind of a shout-out to all my SCA homies.’
Of course the video for ‘Single Ladies,’ where Beyonce and two women dance and run in circles in some netherworld void of black and white, is completely different to the video she did for ‘Ego’ where it’s just her and two women dancing in a black and white netherworld void that resembles a public lavatory.
Lyrically, though, this song with its ‘Wuh-uh-oh, oh-oh-oh’ is simply no match against what followed it – the blistering musical tour de force of Lady Gag’s – sorry, Gaga – ‘Bad Romance’ and its deeply introspective lyrics of ‘Rah rah ah-ah-ah!/Ro mah ro-mah-mah/Gaga Ooh-la-la!’
The genius of this latter powerhouse seems almost to echo the poetic sentiments one finds in such unforgettable krimanchuli classics as Fröken Vega’s CuCu Yodel.
Thank the gods that during a much-needed break for advertisements about all the cool upcoming non-music related programming on MTV I managed to grapple for the remote and discovered that the History Channel was running an all day marathon of UFO files.
Gods bless us, every one…