ARTPOP – Lady Gaga

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I’m a big fan of The Fame Monster and thought to myself a few years back that Lady Gaga would probably not be able to outdo that album and its quality. Born This Way certainly didn’t help matters – the good songs are good although most are very derivative (with the exception of ‘Americano’ which should have been released as a single), the bad songs are pandering or boring (I cannot understand the appeal of ‘Marry the Night’ or ‘Yoü and I’ and its superfluous umlaut).

The build-up and hype around ARTPOP, as well as a lot of Lady Gaga’s artifice in dealing with its publicity (the insistence that it must be spelt in allcaps for instance) as well as a bit of weariness with Lady Gaga’s devotion to spectacle outweighing her devotion to the music itself admittedly put me in an apprehensive light on the album.

Happily, it’s better than I was expecting! It’s not a perfect album, and it doesn’t have the sense of cohesion that the Monster EP had, but it’s much more a sign of Gaga playing around with themes and style, while sticking fervently to her pop roots.

Opening with the deranged ‘Aura’ sets the expectation of the album being over the top and theatrical (everything we’ve come to expect) but more than just the excessive showmanship that drowned much of Born This Way.

There are two concepts that weave their way through the songs on the album: Gaga’s “reverse Warholian expedition” (which admittedly, may be seen more with the release of the ARTPOP app that coincides with the US release date) can be phrased much less pretentiously as the want to use works of art to build her music on (best evidenced in ‘Venus’ which takes some cures from Boticelli’s Birth of Venus and combines them with references to the planets in our solar system), and also her seeming desperation to be as famous as can be and her voracious appetite for the attention of the world.

This last one is something that many people would already associate with Gaga and her wacky ways, but she’s taken that notion of attention-grabbing and focussed it into a consistent theme that influences the album, and although it might be the tipping point for people who prefer her music to her theatricality, she does it very well.

This isn’t to say it’s entirely successful though – some songs do smack of trying a bit too hard in their lyrics (‘Sexxx Dreams’ and ‘G.U.Y.’ often make the mistake of confusing flagrant sexual content with eroticism) and some songs do fall short of the mark in terms of actual enjoyability (‘Do What U Want’ commits the grievous sin of being relatively boring, especially in comparison with other tracks)

However, the album as a whole is constantly listenable – Gaga’s used her versatility as a singer across the board, ranging from the über-stylised vocals of ‘Donatella’ to the (genuinely!) soulful strains of the introspective ‘Dope’ (a song that compares love to drug addiction and asks Gaga to make a choice between the two – it also seems to be the replacement for ‘Princess Die’ which she premiered a few years ago then declared would not be appearing on the album) and there are some great moments among the other tracks (‘Swine’ and ‘Mary Jane Holland’ are awesomely danceable in their own way).

Closing the album with its lead single ‘Applause’ is a good choice too – solidifying the themes she plays around with in terms of her devotion to fame and to her fans, and ending on an upbeat note that will herald in the arrival of ARTPOP: Volume 2 (which she’s confirmed is in the works.)

OVERALL THOUGHTS:

It’s not as good as the Monster EP, but it’s miles ahead of Born This Way. There’s a fair bit of variety within her own trademark styles, and the songs seem influenced by other styles and genres, rather than a paint-by-numbers retooling. I can’t say that I felt I went through a reverse Warholian expedition, but it’s an album I enjoyed listening to despite its occasional misfires. That said, if you’ve been waiting for Lady Gaga to tone it down a notch, this is not the album for you.

War of the Remake: Jesus Christ Superstar(s) (1973, 2000, 2012)

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“It happens that we don’t see Christ as God, but simply the right man at the right time at the right place.” – Tim Rice

Jesus Christ Superstar, the rock-opera penned by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber seems an odd choice to be a lingering success in an increasingly secular world; not that the stories don’t have lasting appeal, but that in the light of other Broadway spectaculars, this relatively un-spectacular show still draws in the crowds.

It’s campy and it’s dated, but the show still holds punters in their seats and keeps on being (ironically) revived for different productions the world over, and has become one of the Broadway shows that slips into even the most lay of laymen’s knowledge of musical theatre.

This is probably testament in equal parts to the show’s writing, and the freedom any production has to use its flexibility to their advantage, and also to the lasting power of the show’s fandom, always eager to see how it might play out another way.

Short of popping down to your local theatre and hoping for a community performance, the easiest way to access the show is through one of the three versions released to the home market: Norman Jewison’s 1973 motion picture, the filmed-stage-production version from 2000, and the most recent adaptation of the “Concert Arena Spectacular” in 2012.

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For the uninitiated, the plot:

Jesus of Nazareth has been growing in popularity with his talk of new ways of living and believing. He’s amassed a crowd of followers, and the talk of uprising is starting to grow. Judas, Jesus’ right hand man, is growing fearful of Jesus’ popularity – they’re in lands occupied by the Roman Empire, and the Romans don’t tend to take too kindly to people shaking up the general order of things. Furthermore, Judas asserts that the crowd think Jesus is planning a revolution against the Romans, and when they find out they’re wrong, they’ll turn against him.

Jesus and his followers ride into Jerusalem to much praise from the people, but the local priests identify him as a risk that jeopardises them all – the Romans won’t just take care of Jesus, they’ll punish any who are remotely connected to him, such as all the other Jews, even those who don’t follow Jesus. Jesus makes more of a scene at a temple, throwing an epic tantrum to overturn the table of all the people who have made the sacred temple a place to peddle their wares.

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He has a nightmare in which he’s confronted by a colony of lepers and beggars all pleading with him to heal them – he becomes overwhelmed by their numbers, and screams at them to heal themselves. When he wakes, Mary Magdalene is by his side to comfort him, and (as she’s been doing throughout the story) try to get closer to him; she sings about her love for this man, and she doesn’t understand it.

Judas, now resentful of the place Mary Magdalene has taken in Jesus’ life, and growing more and more worried about the impending threat of the Roman suppression, goes to the priests and betrays Jesus.

Jesus is captured and taken to Pontius Pilate, who has already dreamt of the coming downfall of Rome if Jesus is killed – wanting to distance himself from the decision declares Jesus to not be his problem and sends him to King Herod. Herod, one jazzy Charleston-y number later, declares that Jesus is a fraud and sends him back to Pilate.

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Judas comes to the realisation of what he’s done, and guilt-ridden, hangs himself.

Pilate tries as he can to get Jesus to downplay his claims of divinity, tries to paint Jesus as a madman, and tries to persuade the crowd that he should be set free. The crowd, having all turned against Jesus now, demand he be crucified. Things reach a frenzy point and Pilate washes his hands of the situation, telling Jesus that he can’t help him if he won’t do anything to help himself.

Jesus is crucified, and while he hangs on the cross, a vision of Judas comes to him and asks if this had all been part of his plan, bringing us the title track of the show.

The play was met with controversy and condemnation from several religious groups. The questioning of Jesus’ divinity, as well as the humanising of Judas wasn’t received warmly, nor was the complete lack of Jesus’ resurrection (i.e. the entire point of Christianity).

Elsewhere, audiences loved the show and made it the lasting hit it has become today.

The success to this is that the story gets removed from the context of the religious dirge that anyone who went to a Catholic school can attest to, and revitalises it with a focus on the interactions of the characters and their setting. This is not so much a story of Jesus-Son-of-God as it is a look at the political ramifications of being Jesus and claiming to be the Son of God.

Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 11.39.23 amThis is helped with the deliberately anachronistic production values – most shows use a mix of modern costuming and props to highlight the allegory of the story. Jesus Christ Superstar is not only about the events that happened a few thousand years ago, but also the same sort of things that keep happening now. The “superstar” of the title can easily be transferred to the treatment and rejection the public gives modern stars of any given field, the politics of the play can be transferred to pretty much any moment of turmoil in the news, or it can be simply read as an adaptation of the passion play.

The success of the show is that takes a religious tale and presents it in a way where, funnily enough, the religious side of it is the least important. Anyone who grew up with the simplified liturgical readings of “Jesus = pure good, Judas = evil badman” should appreciate the depth given to their characters, the suggestions that Judas wasn’t a selfish traitor, and that Jesus might have not wanted the burden of dying for a cause he hadn’t fully realised.

There is of course the appeal of the music itself – although very definitely showing its age these days (the rockin’ twang of electric guitars that serves as the foundation for the score is surprisingly not timeless) there is still a lot of love to have for the soundtrack. The opening ‘Heaven on their Minds,’ in which Judas lays out his fears and apprehensions about the state of things, as well as his and Jesus’ relationship is a shining beacon of groovy beats and masterfully laid out exposition. ‘Trial Before Pilate’ is my personal favourite, with the build up of dread heaping on Pilate before he finally breaks down in the song’s melodramatic climax. There are many great tunes, and the only misfire is the show’s most well known number. ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him’ is a turgid, bloated monstrosity of a song that somehow managed to become a breakaway hit.

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As for the home-market-available adaptations?

The 1973 film has probably dated the most (what with it being the oldest and all – shocking, I know) but this is largely due to the framing device. Whereas most stage shows of Jesus Christ Superstar present their anachronisms as part of the set design, the 1973 film uses the conceit that a busload of hippies went out into the desert and put on the show. Spectacular on-location photography abounds, just as much as the cheesecloth and Combi-van sensibility of 1970s. There’s nothing wrong with this per se, but it does definitely mark the film as being from a specific era, which can affect the show’s ability to remain timeless.

Carl Anderson brings home the bacon as Judas, playing him with a ferocity and intensity that drives home the complexity of his character. He’s not a selfish man by any means, just driven to making some decisions due to the increasingly different circumstances.

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Ted Neeley turns in a fine performance as Jesus, although (and this is more to do with the show’s writing than it is his performance) it’s hard to not be stunned by some of the notes he hits without any prior warning, and that stun often devolves into giggling. Neeley’s performance of ‘Gethsemane’ remains the best, showing the disillusionment and fear of what’s to come, and never letting it become a display of histrionic anguish.

Barry Dennen’s turn as Pontius Pilate is wonderfully camp, although he also manages a fair crack of sinister menace in his first scenes with Jesus, before ramping up the desperation with which he tries to save Jesus to save himself.

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Oh Barry.

The 2000 production rejects the earlier film’s devotion to wide open spaces and beautiful location photography, instead making its production design a mix of concrete, steel and leather. This is often known as the “gay bar” version, and for good reason. It’s certainly not helped by the homoeroticism between Judas and Jesus being so overplayed that you end up wondering if it’s not meant to be a full on love triangle between the two of them and Mary Magdalene.

Judas (Jérôme Pradon) is intense though too effete to make the character seem anything less than a parody. Glenn Carter’s Jesus has the personality and appeal of a cheeseless water-cracker.

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And is clearly a graduate of the Osmond School of Dentistry

The priests fare better however, in that they’re made to be convincingly menacing and threatening (it’s hard to take the 1973 priests seriously with their silly hats) although for every strength they gain, it becomes obvious they’re a pallid imitation of The Strangers from Dark City.

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Rik Mayall shows up for a cameo as Herod, and while you would think that might make things interesting for a moment, he, as well as the audience, is desperately bored by the time Herod’s song comes around.

If there is one saving grace for the 2000 version, and it’s certainly not deliberate, it’s the stunningly misguided casting of Pilate as a muscle-god in Nazi-fetishising uniform. Fred Johanson looks an impressive behemoth in the role, but whereas Barry Dennen’s performance was centred with desperation around not wanting Jesus’ blood on his hands, Johanson’s is a tantrum-throwing spectacle of histrionics. It’s certainly not helped by the production decision to have Jesus’ flogging represented by the crowd bitch slapping him with fingerpaint, but Johanson’s performance is so over the top it manages to lap itself from underneath. It’s included below so you can see it in all its captivating amazingness.


“Die if you want to, you innocent Papaya!”

The 2012 adaptation is presented as a concert spectacular, and so does away with the idea of multiple sets or even trying to present it as a self-contained story – it’s a concert we’re viewing, and a damned good one at that.

Whereas the other versions of the film play up the militaristic view of the story, without ever alluding to any one specific conflict, the 2012 version ramps up the “superstar” aspect. This is about the fame Jesus gathers and how quickly it’s used to frame him in the opposite light once things go bad.

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Tim Minchin turns up as Judas, and although he mightn’t have the voice you’d traditionally think goes hand-in-hand with musical theatre, he gives a performance that’s suitably intense and conflicted (despite the ridiculousness of the DVD producers autotuning his voice). It’s not just a rehash of Anderson’s character-defining performance, but something else. His performance of ‘Judas’ Death’ is amazing, and the way his voice cracks and breaks really drives it home.

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Ben Forster makes an adequate Jesus, using a much more traditionally “rockstar” voice, that has the downside of every now and then making him sound a bit like he’s whingeing instead of dealing with an inner conflict.

The best surprise of the 2012 version is seeing former Sporty Spice Melanie Chisholm turn up as Mary Magdalene. I usually find her an incredibly boring character, but Mel C manages to give her a warmth and depth that held my interest. Also, given that her voice rubs a lot of people the wrong way, it’s interesting to see how much better she can make ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him’ just off the strength of being different with it.

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Ultimately though, different though the different versions are, the show’s biggest strength, and the deciding factor on how good any production is, is in how good its Judas is. While the 2000 version is clearly the weakest, there’s really too much difference between the 1973 and 2012 version to single one out as better. Minchin’s Judas comes across as a little more self-serving than Andersons, though never becoming as simplistic as one-note. Anderson’s Judas has a fire and intensity to him, but is undeniably hampered by the now-dated style of the film but also the performances in it.

Take your pick with the Judases. Both are better for different reasons, and my reasoning isn’t going to line up with other people’s perception. I do think that the 2012 version, while great, doesn’t quite match up to the spectacle of the 1973 version. Perhaps its due to filming in Israel and having a great bizarre mix of centuries-old location mixed with incredibly time-specific costuming and props, but it seems to be the version that works as a whole. The 2000 version is not wholly terrible, it’s just overblown and over styled to the point of being a bit ridiculous.

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With the exception of a fine performance from M. Bison.

Alternatively, see whatever production of the show pops up near you – it seems you can’t go more than a few months without it showing up somewhere nearby. At the very least, it’s really worth seeing if you ever grew up being told the same version of the rise and fall of Jesus and grew tired of it – perhaps schools should start brining in an electric guitar to make it more interesting.

A Few Songs I’m Addicted To At The Moment

None of these are especially groundbreaking or new release, but just some of the songs I’ve been addicted to lately. Their vibrations are good on the ol’ ear drums.

Crystal Castles – Violent Youth

Won’t go into too much detail on my love of Crystal Castles – just know that it’s immense. The entirety of their third self-titled album (or Crystal Castles III or just III) is a hauntingly bleak construction. It’s a nihilistic mix of sorrow and lurking sinisterness.

Violent Youth succeeds by being one of the less-screechy songs, and Ethan Kath’s pitch-shifted vocals work wonders with the erratic staccato beat. The imagery created by the lyrics is tragic, and works as something of a sequel-song to the similarly desperate lyrics of Intimate from their second album (there actually are lyrics in Intimate – once you’ve heard them you’ll wonder how you missed them on the first listen)

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BT – Flaming June (Laptop Symphony Rework)

BT: another artist I can’t express my love for. A musical genius (literally, if reports of his IQ are to be believed) he’s never been one to shy away from completely re-tooling his sounds, leading to completely different sounding albums in succession. Flaming June was one of his dancefloor mega-hits, originally released in 1997. It’s still a great song, but he’s revisited it with years of new equipment and technologies to completely rebuild the song.

It’s an astoundingly good remix of a song that doesn’t completely dismiss the original song, but perfects it and reinvents it for a new era of dance music. It drops different reworkings of its signature hook along the way, until an absolutely sublime culmination of all of them hitting at once (4:07 in the clip above). This is one of those songs that really captures the transcendental mood of good trance music, and it’s best listened to on GOOD headphones when no one can see you dancin’ crazy to it.

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Hot Chip – And I Was A Boy From School

Hot Chip aren’t a band I’ve really gotten into all that much, although I like what I’ve heard. And I Was A Boy From School (or “The Boy From School” as the studio requested they shorten it to – original title is listed on iTunes for the curious) is a great example of how all electronic music doesn’t need to be designed purely for a dancefloor.

It’s a cool mix of melancholy harmonies and regretful lyrics with a funky beat guiding it along in the background. The bridges are segued in smoothly, not jarringly, makes it an all round pleasant (if not bittersweet) tune to get through the day with.

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Azaelia Banks – 212

This one comes with a language warning! One of the most profane songs you’ll ever hear, but also one of the catchiest. It’s full of bravado and ego but most importantly confidence. There’s not a single line that sounds like Azaelia Banks doesn’t mean exactly what she’s rapping, and it’s a breathless rundown of the person she’s singing about. It’s a filthy four-lettered song (it seems appropriate that the video above features her mouth quite prominently) that gets in your head and doesn’t leave for days. Lazy Jay’s Float My Boat is also awesome on its own, but the addition of Banks’ lyrics and her furious delivery of them brings an effortless cool to the proceedings. And I want that Mickey Mouse jumper.

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The Knife – A Tooth For An Eye

The Knife are another one of the bands I love very dearly – Silent Shout is still, in my eyes, a perfect album from start to finish. This year’s Shaking the Habitual wasn’t quite as solid an effort for me, but still a massively impressive album of which this is the standout. Those who aren’t used to Karen Dreijer-Andersson’s vocal style probably won’t be as easy to persuade into loving it, but this is an endlessly infectious song that I just love.

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PNAU – Lover

Now for a band that’s quite often hit-and-miss for me. When PNAU hits, they hit well – Embrace, The Truth, Wild Strawberries – all great songs. Lover comes from their first album, and just has all the trademarks in a dance track I like – decent beat, good progression, slightly dark/sinister sounds. It also gets bonus points for sampling Laura Palmer’s love theme from Twin Peaks. Still waiting for the day when YouTube user takesomecrime decides to dance to this (if you’re unfamiliar with his work, check it out here)

*I’m not the Dave in the video linked above – much as I wish I had those skills. Just the best link I could find for the song.

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Michael McCann – HungHua Brothel

Don’t let the name fool you – it’s actually from a classier place. This is one of the many excellent tracks from Michael McCann’s excellent score for Deus Ex: Human Revolution (an amazing game you should play if you haven’t). In the context of the game, it’s while you’re exploring a brothel in China, and it’s meant to be indicative of the sort of bad-life the workers therein are being subjected to.

Outside of that context, it’s a writhing, moaning, sexy song that pounds away in your ears with this great insistence. Again, dark and sinister sounding song, done well. I’ll admit it’s short, but I love every second of it.

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SOLO – A Runner

Now for the down-tempo song. SOLO is the pen name of Australian actress Sophie Lowe (Beautiful Kate, Blessed, The Slap) and I came across it on her soundcloud account. It’s a haunted lament for the guy who’s left her with barely a word, and it sees her utilising breathy Julia Stone-esque vocals, but not in a way that makes me want to send my speakers hurtling to the pavement like Julia Stone’s voice. It sounds best on a good set of headphones (the moment the drums kick in is great), and is one of those songs that works infinitely better when you listen to it at night.

(The image for this article on the frontpage comes from http://www.fullhdwpp.com/wp-content/uploads/Mouse-with-headphones.jpg)

When something we like becomes popular…

I happen to be one of those people who from time to time will post song lyrics as my Facebook status. Usually it’s because I’m a) listening to the song at the current time and find myself responding to a particular line, or b) having a particular experience that a more talented wordsmith has been able to elucidate better than I ever could.

Now, recently, the nation has been swept up by Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know, which is an incredible song, both in composition and lyrics. It’s certainly propelled him into the mainstream consciousness, to the point where at work (I work in a record store) customers will enquire about him and be able to say his name properly; six months ago, it was normally pronounced “gotcha” by people buying his CDs for their kids.

The thing is, he’s been kicking around for a while now, and has had a small-to-medium sized devoted fanbase for just as long. I know a few people who are a bit peeved that Somebody… has become so popular, because they “loved Gotye for years before that song came out!” I knew of him because I sold his CDs at work, and while I liked a few songs, I wouldn’t have called myself a massive fan. Somebody… has propelled me into listening to more and more of his stuff, and though I like what I’ve heard, I don’t use that song’s lyrics as a status. This is either because I don’t want to piss off my friends who are long-time fans, or because I don’t feel I’ve earned the right to embrace his lyrics as a way of expressing myself, which really just ties back into the former notion.

This isn’t a new thing though, as anyone can tell you, and I myself am guilty of it to varying degrees. I have a particular hatred when a movie is remade into a drastically inferior product, but that becomes doubled when new audiences aren’t aware that it’s a remake. Now to clarify, I’m actually not one of those people who assume every remake is inferior – many are unnecessary, but that doesn’t negate their merits. Both Dawn of the Dead and Last House on the Left received very adequate remakes (bordering on surpassing their original) and even a classic like Cape Feare I thought to be better in its newer incarnation.

But when slack jawed teens come into my work and buy the remake of I Spit On Your Grave and talk about how brutal it is, and how “there’s never been a movie like this before” it boils my blood (though that instance led to a particularly fantastic opportunity to silently present them with the DVD of the original). And the thing is, I don’t even particularly like I Spit On Your Grave – I respect a few odd things about it, but I don’t see it as a film that I get to hold as currency against the mainstream – I get no satisfaction out of knowing that I “knew about it first” but it annoys me that the original is disregarded.

And it comes with many different flavours – people will be annoyed when a movie adaptation makes a book more popular, people will be annoyed if a dance step gains more exposure, and of course, when music becomes more commercially recognised.

What is it about our mentalities that gets annoyed when something niche we like becomes popular? Is it because we see the newfound popularity as exposing something we love to people who don’t appreciate it as much? Or is it that we feel like our devotion to something obscure becomes invalidated, when someone else who hasn’t devoted themselves for as long gets to experience whatever niche thing it is we hold so dear?

Perhaps it’s a semi-subconscious desire to be seen as an originator or to hold an authoritative voice. All those Gotye fans that have loved his work for years are now indistinguishable from someone who heard Somebody That I Used To Know and went through his back catalogue. A passerby could assume that a Gotye fan has only developed their tastes off what the local pop-music stations are playing.

They have their devotion disregarded, because, now that he’s popular, it may seem to an outsider that they are simply following what is in vogue. A year ago, they could’ve talked about liking Gotye, and expected to get a query is to who that was. Now, they mention they like Gotye, and there’s a risk they’ll be greeted with an “OMG I love them too! That Somebody That I Used To Know song is sooo cool” and there comes the most horrible notion of all – they might be seen to be like that.

An additional risk, particularly when it comes to personal tastes that might be seen as facets of our outward identity, is that something becoming popular deprives us of an indicator of effort. While something is obscure and elusive, we have to struggle to obtain it. This further bonds us to whatever it may be that we’re hunting down, and we become part of an echelon that knows about this rare, obscure, esoteric interest. But if it becomes popular, then it becomes readily available. No effort has to be made anymore. The echelon is disbanded.

Of course, this can be taken to ridiculous jokes, as with the stereotypical Hipster notion of using obscurity as a weapon – y’know, nothing you like is cool or indie, it’s actually just totally mainstream. Though that also ignores something of an irony that complaining about hipsters used to be a pretty rare thing, and now it’s incredibly popular and easy… Who hasn’t as yet heard the below joke?:

Q: How many hipsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Oh it’s an obscure number, you’ve probably never heard of it…

But that’s just the exaggerated form of this necessity to hold on to what we hold dear, in all its obscurity. We feel better if we’re there first, and we don’t like it when other people try to claim it as their own too.

I of course have no solutions to all of this. Despite getting frustrated by it when people try to belittle me for liking something they liked ages ago, I do the exact same thing. I don’t like to admit it, but I also want the recognition that I was there first, and for longer, or that I knew more about it before it became so popular.

At the end of this though, I still won’t use Somebody That I Used To Know as a Facebook status, annoyingly, as I do really love the song. Maybe everyone loves the song and that’s the problem – it speaks to too many people, and it’s not a niche appeal anymore.

Top 10 Music Videos (Where Not Much Actually Happens)

I was planning on writing a Top 10 of my favourite music videos, but that led me to too many options, and I couldn’t face the task of narrowing it down to just 10 (although “What Else Is There” by Royksopp would be number one, if you’re curious). Instead, I’ve done music videos that should be dull and banal, but just aren’t. Here we go:

10. Girls Can Be Cruel by Infusion

Summed up:

Some models walk down a catwalk. Infusion appear on screens behind them.

Why does it work?

This song is just an excellently bitter kiss-off song to the fair sex when they’re being unfair, so it makes sense to have a music video portraying cold, calculated women as the means of getting this message across. Sure, the girls all look amazing when they strut their stuff in time to the music, but they’re so distant and artificial that you know you’ll never have a chance with any of them, and the song wants you to be pissed off about that.

9. Beggin’ You by Cerf, Mitiska and Jaren

Summed up:

Jaren sings from an operating table.

Why does it work?

I think this comes down entirely to Jaren. She’s one of my favourite singers, and definitely one of the standouts in the vast array of female vocalists in Trance music, and it comes down to two simple things: 1), the girl can sing! She has this beautiful deep voice that can just do amazing things with a song, and 2) she puts such emotion into the words she’s singing. Beggin’ You is just beautiful, and this comes across in the video – the vast majority of the song is just her face, singing, and it doesn’t bore you at all because you can read so much just from the feeling she’s put into each note. It’s a nicely shot little clip too, which just makes it all the more palatable.

8. Heartbeats by The Knife

Summed up:

Some kids ride skateboards downhill. Also, some shapes fly out of a train.

Why does it work?

I have no idea. I love the song, so I’m of course biased, but this clip should bore the shit out of me – it doesn’t! It’s literally nothing but footage from the 70s of kids riding downhill in their skateboards – but I watch without looking away. And it’s not like they’re doing heaps of totally radical tubular moves on those decks – the slaloming is cool, but it should be boring! So why isn’t it? Power of an awesome song maybe? And yeah, there’s also a few brief moments where a train rides along pumping out brightly coloured 3D shapes, but it’s like 2% of the total runtime, and even then – that should be boring too! Yet, I love it.

7. This Boy’s In Love by The Presets

Summed up:

Two guys wrestle in milk. The Presets get dusty.

Why does it work?

Its just super, super stylish. I’ve also seen a making-of clip for the video, and Kim and Julian said that they used the treatment for this video purely because it was so bizarre – two guys fight in milk – and it’s easy to see why it appealed to their oddball natures. Zack Snyder would also do well to see this clip, as this is how slow motion should be done! It’s so fucking cool when there’s just a slow-moving cloud of dust and dirt covering Kim and Julian with a light illuminating different particles. Awesome song, awesome clip.

6. Technologic by Daft Punk

Summed up:

Robot watches creepy robot.

Why does it work?

Well, other than the über-creepiness of the singing robot, I love this clip for visualising the sinister undertones of the song. The pitch-correction on the lyrics already made it unsettling, but when you think about the lyrics – which are just simple computer functions – it seems like some endless trap of constantly doing the same thing over and over again. Then the clip shows us a robot watching another robot brainwashing it with creepiness and technology, while Daft Punk (appropriately robotic) play their guitars alongside. Why are there pyramids? Because they’re creepy. Why is it orange-hued? Because it’s creepy. It’s a cool, creepy and effective clip, despite its simplicity.

5. Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve

Summed up:

Guy walks down a street.

Why does it work?

I love how simple the premise is – walking a line from A to B without avoiding anything in your way. I love that he starts off simply enough, but then as the song builds, so does the quiet chaos on the street behind him where everyone he pisses off or knocks to the ground reacts to him, or tries to even get some form of acknowledgement but he just keeps going. It’s a cool idea that works with the song – and I have to admit I’m not that big a fan of the song. Like Wonderwall, this is one of those songs that everyone I know simply adores, but I’ve always been left underwhelmed by it; it’s not to say I don’t like the song, but the music video definitely makes up for that.

4. Courtship Dating by Crystal Castles

Summed up:

Song’s performed in the shadows

Why does it work?

This song is bouncy and creepy all at once, and the latter element is definitely amped up when you realise the lyrics are about human taxidermy. How do you put that in a music video? You don’t! Instead, we get hidden shots of Alice Glass and Ethan Kath performing in blackness with a single globe and occasional strobe light illuminating them every now and then. I think I like this because the video uses so much black that you kind of get the impression that there’s something hiding in the darkness with them, and given that we can’t see it – that’s downright scary.

3. Satisfaction by Benny Benassi

Summed up:

Three guys and a girl stand there.

Why does it work?

This is of course the “clean” music video, instead of the one with large breasts and power tools. This clip works just for its sheer inanity. Apparently it’s a three second clip stretched out to match the song’s length, so it takes you forever to notice that they’re actually moving, just really slowly. And that’s cool. It’s odd that such a pounding beat can be matched up well with a seemingly static image, but somehow it all fits.

2. Call Your Girlfriend by Robyn

Summed up:

Robyn dances in a gym.

Why does it work?

It helps that it’s such a good song, but the video all comes down to Robyn herself. Like Jaren, she’s able to convey a bucketload of emotion in her singing, and this video has her act it out. And I don’t mean that is in the video has her doing an interpretive dance. The song is about a girl who tells her new man that he needs to break up with his girlfriend so they can be together, but she gives him advice on how to do it gently. Robyn looks like her heart is breaking with sympathy for his girlfriend throughout the song, and it just makes her so endearing. For added awesomeness, the video is shot in a single (impressive) take. It shouldn’t be as fascinating and easy to watch as it is – yet you just get swept up in Robyn’s performance, and she absolutely nails it.

1. Papillion by Editors

Summed up:

Some guys run around a city.

Why does it work?

This one’s simple: the video matches the energy of the song. This song makes me want to run, and it’s perfectly fitting that the music video is nothing but some guys running around a seemingly empty city. Why are they running? Where are they going? What’s the point of all this? It doesn’t matter – because it’s just a perfect fit for the mood of the song itself. I don’t know how anyone could possibly get bored with this clip – it’s just so simple and so cool. I could watch it till the cows come home, which will be a pretty long time, given my lack of cow ownership.

And the worst:

Edge of Glory by Lady Gaga

Summed up:

Lady Gaga totes hangs out on a fire escape.

Why it doesn’t work:

What a waste! I know some people get fed up with Lady Gaga’s constant theatricality in every single breath of her life, and yeah it can be a bit much at times, but I hardly think the way to make up for that is to have a video clip where you do nothing at all – especially when it’s to a song with so much potential! There’s so much feeling and depth to the song, and having Lady Gaga leathered up on a fire escape doing nothing except running up the stairs, then down them, then back up them, and a bit of a dance here and there – it’s just shit! It seems phoned in and done on the cheap. Disappointing, especially given how crazy awesome some of her other clips are.

10 Songs That Wear Out Their Welcome Way Too Quickly

Ever have those songs that start out really well, and then just die off almost straight away? Yeah, I do too.

10. “Sexy Boy” by Air

This is a cool song. It’s not amazing, but it is fantastic when a soundtrack uses it well. The real problem with the song, other than the usual lack of anywhere to go after its intro, is how polar-opposite the chorus and verses are. That dark groove that opens the song, along with the breathy, erotic repetitions of “sexy boy” set up a tone for a deep and sexy song – but then the verses come along in their cutesy uplifting French, and it’s just too much of a change in mood. This would be like getting down and dirty with some hot-bodied gorgeous thing, only to then have her turn out to be a 12-year-old. It’s just too dissonant, and it stops you enjoying the song as much as you can. Which is a shame, because the song is actually pretty cool.

 

9. “Breathe Me” by Sia

I’m gonna have to dodge the flaming arrows of Sia fans on this one, but Breathe Me is too long a song without anywhere near enough variation. Breathy, tortured vocals are alright in moderation, but this song is almost like it’s horny for being depressed, and it just can’t get off. Now, I do like the song – the piano at the start is beautiful, but once the song gets past its intro, it just seems like more of the same. I constantly skip it when it comes on the ol’ iPod, because in the end, I’ll just wind up spending four and a half minutes listening to Sia croak ennui into a microphone.

 

8. “Beggin'” by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons

Now, this almost pains me to write – but rap has improved this song. The Madcon cover is able to correct everything that the Frankie Valli version has wrong with it. The initial hook of the song is diabolically catchy – you hear it just the once, and for months – and months – and months, you will have “Beggin’…beggin’ youu-oo-oo-ooooooo…put your lovin’ hands out baby!” repeating in your head like a particularly danceable cancer on your mind. Problem is, that hook isn’t enough to sustain an entire song, and the Valli version is essentially nothing but that hook. The different verses of rap in the Madcon cover break it up perfectly and you find yourself enjoying it, but the Valli one just leaves you wanting to end once it starts.

 

7. “Hey Jude” by The Beatles

This one can probably be blamed on hearing it roughly 724, 678, 195 times at my aunt’s wedding (her name is Judy, there was alcohol, the repetition was inevitable). That said, I also think this is one of the most overrated Beatles songs. It’s nice, I like it, but it’s just a bit…wishy-washy. But quality of the song aside, the “naaaaa naaaaa naaaaaa na-na-na-naaaaaa” goes on for too long. And admittedly, this is the song taking too long to end, because for the most part it’s welcome is kept invited. But then it becomes like that friend who won’t leave even after you say you’re going to bed.

 

6. “Ready to Go” by Republica

Ready To Go is another one of those songs that is perfect for a soundtrack where the song itself is not the main focus, but on it’s own, it’s got, ironically, nowhere to go. The intro is cool, the agro-punk-techno surging after it is also cool, and it’s palatable up until about the end of the first chorus. After that, it just does nothing, and the intensity of that agro-punk-techno just grinds you down into being sick of it. Also, it doesn’t help that:

Each veeeeeeerse
Is suuuuuung
In this exact style right heeeere

Where woooooords
Get draaaaaaaagged
And then a third line’s sung quite cleeeear

It’s fiiiiine
First tiiiime
But after that you’re fucking booored

You just want Saffron (the vocalist – and that’s another thing – the song would be better if its singer’s name wasn’t a spice) to kind of tone down the bored-chic stylings of the vocals.

That said, this is probably my favourite song on this list – if you’re doing something with the song, like cleaning the house or going for a run – it’s fine; if you’re listening to music recreationally – it’s a drag.

 

5. “Du Hast” by Rammstein

This song is kind of ridiculous in how over the top it is anyway, but really, the only reason it needs to exist is for that moment when the drums and guitars kick in after the whine of the synth intro. Now, that moment – that is sheer awesomeness. Then the song dies in the arse once Till Lindemann starts singing – the awesomeness of the song up until now gives over to ridiculous amounts of Teutonic camp. And then by the end of it I’m bored. But that first bit – awesome.

 

4. “Red Alert” by Basement Jaxx

Basement Jaxx are cool, and I love a lot of their music, and every time I hear Red Alert, I get all psyched up for it but after a while, the constant (albeit masterfully constructed) quirks of the song just get draining… It also doesn’t help that lyrically, the song is “Verse, Bridge, Repeat” – it never builds up to a proper chorus and by the end it’s just chasing its tail – although I will concede that in the music video above it seems less repetitive what with everything going on in that clip.

 

3. “Oh Yeah” by Yello

More commonly known as “The Ferris Bueller Song” this is just another example of a song having nowhere to go unless it’s being used on a soundtrack. Ferris Bueller has forever associated this song with greed and excess, so when you listen to it on its own, it’s like a douchebag in a nightclub crying out “I’m awesome!” – pretty painful. I’ll admit though – I do love the “chick…chick…chicka-chicka” just for its ludicrousness. It’s a fun song, I guess, but it’s just too little for too long.

 

2. “You Give Love a Bad Name” by Bon Jovi

This one’s the same problem as Du Hast just in a much tighter timeframe – after you get past the opening lines, the song is just shit. I won’t even say I actually like the song and just get sick of it towards the end, no – I like the opening line and that’s it. Sorry Bon Jovi fans – this song is terrible except for that opener. That’s not to say I don’t like Bon Jovi – they’ve a few good songs under their belt, but I’ve never understood the appeal of this one – except that opening second.

 

1. “Song 2” by Blur

So yeah, we have every car advertisement and action movie trailer in the world to thank for perpetuating this song’s – ahem – ”popularity.” This song starts off okay — and I mean a heavy emphasis on “okay” – it’s not great but it is okay — and then once you get a “woo-hoo” in, it’s spent the entirety of it’s charm. The lyrics – what little there are of them – are whingy and annoying, and the song just fucks around until it gets back to it’s oh-so-charming “woo-hoos” by which point I’m skipping it, and every advertisement out there is using it to ramp up the “energy” of their lifeless products. Seriously, how many commercials has this fucking arsewreck of a song been in?

 

And that’s the list! Feel free to disagree with me, or suggest your own down below.