Monday, December 26, 2011

Best Music Videos, 2011: My Top 10 Honorable Mentions

"Hey Mama" by Mat Kearney. This Nashville-based singer-songwriter wrote a nice song about his wife. Darkhearted cynics beware; it's a feelgood video. In black and white. Seriously, it's such a cheerful romp, you expect the damn thing to burst into technicolor any second. Oh, and he's HOT.

"Every Minute Alone." WhoMadeWho. Men are crying. No, weeping. About something.  You'll be tempted to click away. Don't do it. I promise you'll be laughing at them before the end of this clever little video by a terrific, but unknown (in the U.S, at least) Scandinavian band.

"Romance" by Wild Flag. These indie rockers deliver the goods; a bold, raw sound and a kick ass song with a killer hook. The video didn't need to be anything more than pure, goofy fun. The world would be a more interesting place if people wore masks for something other than Halloween.

"Don't Turn the Lights On" by Chromeo. The wistfulness (yeah, it's there between synthesizers) of this electrofunk duo's song is complemented by the corny sight gags of the video. It's hard not to be charmed.

"Put Me to Sleep" by Porcelain Raft. The sexy guy behind Porcelain Raft is Mauro Remiddi. What happens when you put a fully-clothed sexy guy in a tub of weird milky water and then shoot an entire three-minute video of him thrashing about? He'll be wet, but he'll still be sexy.


"Save the World" by Swedish House Mafia. They are Axwell, Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso. They are Swedish. And apparently they believe dogs will save the world. Did anyone ever think it would be cats?

"Call Your Girlfriend" by Robyn. Another Swede makes the list. Robyn's lack of popularity in the U.S. is dumbfounding. She makes great music. The video is a stunning one-take wonder. Watch this woman own the room.

"The Muppet Show Theme Song" by OK Go & The Muppets. The members of OK Go have never been afraid to have fun and look a little silly in their videos. They are, perhaps, the perfect choice to cover the old Muppets theme and assist in their comeback. The collaboration is colorful chaos.

"Born This Way." A Lady Gaga lipdub. A UK Facebook buddy of mine put this together for his YouTube channel. Lady Gaga's video for the song is another overproduced behemoth. This one distills it all down to pure retro joy.

"Don't Play No Games That I Can't Win" by Beastie Boys. These guys came back in a big way in 2011. A great new album and a couple a of excellent videos. This one features gunfights, explosions and zombies. It's all done with... dolls. Directed by Spike Jonze, it's a wee bit on the long side at eleven minutes, but still kinda brilliant anyway.

My dozen favorite videos of the year are coming up in the next post. Stay tuned...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Music Videos, 2011: The Not So Good, The Bad & The Ugly

"Secret Love" by Stevie Nicks. Frankly, it might have been a nice surprise if Ms. Nicks had recorded a cover of the old Doris Day chestnut, "Secret Love." That would have been unexpected and potentially awesome. But, no. This is an original composition from her Fleetwood Mac heyday that never made it onto an album before. Her iconic voice remains remarkable; the song and video, not so much. Look, Stevie, you're in your 60s now. No one's saying you can't have fun, but the twirly-skirt gypsy nymph thing that worked for you in the 1970s and '80s looks a little silly now.

"Walk" by Foo Fighters. Their feisty punk-pop sound remains intact. This video is some kind of homage to the movie, "Falling Down," in which a dour Michael Douglas goes on a violent rampage in Los Angeles while having a mental collapse. Dave Grohl and his fellow Foos try to have some fun with this. But the problem is that they think they're funny. And they're not. The tone is all over the place. It's not a good sign when a six-year-old gives Grohl the finger and your reaction is "Yeah!"  Serious misfire from a band that gave us one of the greatest music videos of all time with "Learn to Fly."

"Satisfied" by Tom Waits. Terrific singer-songwriter, composer and Oscar nominee (One From the Heart soundtrack), and actor (Bram Stoker's Dracula). His distinctive voice is a gravelly growl. He's unconventional. His artistry cannot be denied. But his music videos can most politely be described as... curious. This one is no exception. The director may successfully convince you that Mr. Waits is a crazy, drunken homeless man who wandered into the alley behind some houses one night and decided to put on a vaudeville show for the neighborhood cats.

"The King That Never Was" by Alternate Reality. A metal band from Cleveland. The video features about 20 Medieval-costumed actors, a castle, horses, swords, and a prologue about King Arthur, Sir Lancelot and Merlin. It may occur to you that they can't possibly be serious. But there's not a single indication that anyone's tongue is planted in their cheek. No, they actually wrote a head-banging metal ode to King Arthur and made an embarrassing, badly acted Renaissance Festival play to go with it. The castle even catches fire, apparently as a result of the CGI sparks flying off the guitars and swords. I could almost learn to love this one ironically. Almost.

"I Wanna Go" by Britney Spears. Her fame is a complete mystery to me. Like the pyramids. "I Wanna Go" is barely even a song; it's an experiment in auto-tuning. The Black Eyed Peas would have passed on recording it. The video itself feels like an afterthought. The idea? Britney is annoyed by the press and paparazzi, some of whom are apparently bionic. It's cheesy and stupid, from the wisps of pink hair and Mickey Mouse halter to the unappetizing use of milk and lame "Thriller" homage and the end. But you do get your fair share of navel and breast shots, plus gratuitous come hither stares, the kind of thing that usually distracts 15-year-old heterosexual boys of all ages.

"Big Bad Wolf" by Duck Sauce. This American-Canadian duo make disco house tracks in which the same couple of words are chanted repeatedly over a relentless beat. You know, the kind of stuff a meth addict loves at 3 a.m. on a dance floor in hell. Anyway,  we've all heard the joke about how men think with the head between their legs instead of the one between their shoulders. This video takes that concept to it's most literal, graphically gross extreme. Listen, I'm old. I've seen everything. It's not easy to get an OMG out of me. You've been warned.

My favorite videos of 2011 are up next. Ten honorable mentions, then my picks for the dozen best of the year.