Sunday, December 5, 2010

100 Music Videos, Part 10: Julieta Venegas to Zemfira

And so "100 Music Videos" comes to an end. We've gone from '80s synth-pop to Finnish black metal to Australian hip-hop. We've seen works by such acclaimed directors as Tarsem Singh, Michel Gondry, Lars Von Trier, Richard Lester and Spike Lee (and we'll get some Spike Jonze in this installment). We've had a re-imagining of Metropolis and a documentay about the making of Easy Rider. And on occasion, we have had nudity. And meat. And eggs.

For our final installment, we will have Mexican fairy tales and Russian paranoid visions. We'll see a band do their take on a classic '70s sit-com and another band do their take on a classic '60s music video. And the epic battle between XTC and Adam Ant that started in our first installment will conclude in this one. Also, a low-budget goth klezmer birthday song.

So I bid you adieu. Or is it au revoir?

91. Julieta Venegas – Limón y Sal

It’s a tale as old as time. Girl meets wolf. Girl falls in love with wolf. But wolf has a secret. He’s no ordinary wolf. He’s a (gasp) werewolf! Girl pursues her relationship with wolf completely unaware that, during a full moon, wolf will turn into (gasp) a man!!! Then a unicorn, a drum-playing elephant, an evil sorcerer and some pigs show up and do exactly what's expected of them. Somehow or other, lemon and salt gets figured into the plot. At least I think it does because the song is called “limón y sal” which I think means “lemon and salt” but I don’t speak Spanish, so I could be wrong about that.

92. Voltaire – Happy Birthday (My Olde Friend) [dir. Voltaire]

Goth musicians have an easier time than other genres at making good low-budget music videos. Since everybody they know has a crazy costume, you can just have them all show up and hang out. If you’re doing a goth klezmer video it’s even easier, since you have all that Hasidic garb, which looks a lot like goth garb anyway.

For Voltaire’s goth klezmer birthday song the cheapness of the video actually helps it. Since the birthday boy corpse is a dummy that in no way resembles an actual human being. That way anybody can substitute themselves for the birthday corpse. This makes "Happy Birthday (My Olde Friend)" the definitive low-budget goth klezmer birthday video, perfect for all low-budget goth klezmer birthday festivities.

93. Weezer – Buddy Holly [dir. Spike Jonze]

These days Weezer has become a bit of a joke, shamelessly putting empty gimmicks over content. But back in the good old days, they did empty gimmicks with class! I mean, they got the director of Being John Malkovich to do their empty gimmicks. Goddamit. It’s the ’10s and I’m getting nostalgic for a ’90s music video that was itself peddling in nostalgia for a ’70s TV show that was peddling in ’50s nostalgia. You know, back in the ’50s everybody was probably reminiscing about the great depression.

94. Wir Sind Helden – Nur ein Wort [dir. Greifer & Krötenbluth]

Wir Sind Helden - Nur Ein Wort
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Hey, you know that music video that Bob Dylan did for “Subterranean Homesick Blues”? You, know, the one from earlier in the list? That was awesome, man! And you know that Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Timescape”, where time keeps speeding up and slowing down and going backwards? You know, where Picard draws the smiley face on the warp core breech? That was awesome, man! And you know that language, German? Well, what if somebody found a way to combine those three things? That would be, like super-awesome! You know what would make it super-awesomer? If they also included a cute geeky chick!

95. Wolf Parade – I’ll Believe in Anything [dir. Matt Moroz]

Fun fact: “Matt Moroz” is actually a pseudonym for Stanley Kubrick. It was supposed to be the successor to Eyes Wide Shut, but he died with only enough material to fill a music video, so some of the actors formed a band with the intent of making said video. Unlike that Adam and the Ants video from earlier in the list, Kubrick paid strict attention to period detail. Like Kubrick’s other period pieces, he insisted on, not only having exact period costumes, but on not using modern electric lights, which is why the colors seem a bit off.

When you have that attention to detail it can bring out interesting facts about the time you might not have otherwise noticed. For instance, it might seem a bit weird for the band to have such poorly groomed facial hair in the video. But’s that’s actually perfectly accurate, because in the 18th century they had different standards for social acceptability for the British nobility than they did for the Canadian indie rock bands.

I did notice one minor mistake, though Kubrick would have likely fixed that had he made the full movie. In the climactic final duel, if you look very closely, the weapons they’re using aren’t really 18th century dueling pistols, but are, in fact, cannons.

96. Toki Wright – By the Time I Get to Arizona 2010

When the state of Arizona passed the nauseatingly awful Senate Bill 1070, that lets cops arrest people for looking like illegal immigrants, country-singer Ray Stevens made an even more nauseatingly awful music video for his anti-immigrant song “Come to the USA”. Also around that time, Minneapolis rapper Toki Wright released this video.

I would like to point out that the Ray Stevens video features the guy singing with himself, while this has Toki Wright with a large immigrants rights demonstration. Stevens may have gotten more views on YouTube, but Wright’s supporters walk the walk.

Also, at the 3:54 mark, Hi, Nick.

97. XTC – Dear God [dir. Nick Brandt]

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You know, for a band that describes its style as “Beatle-based pop” it’s, well, uh, pretty accurate. Lennon-esque lyrics with McCartney-esque music. One sense in which it’s not Beatle-based, the video is largely devoid of skiing. But what it lack in skiing shenanigans it makes up for in depictions of a guy hitting an incredibly symbolic tree with a hammer.

I’d have to say more music videos should feature incredibly symbolic trees. I really like the camera work in this video, the way it pans up the incredibly symbolic tree to show the incredibly symbolic people sitting in it. And the backwards camera-work looks like things are actually being unbroken. More importantly, it just matches the mood of the song. They complement each other so well, it almost makes it look like hitting trees with a hammer is somehow normal.

98. “Weird” Al Yankovic – White & Nerdy [dir. “Weird” Al Yankovic]

The idea of taking a well-known rap song about gangstas and changing it to be about how nerdy you are is something that's been around long enough that I was somewhat weary of the whole idea when I learned about this song. But Weird Al was so clever with his lyrics, completely matching Chamillionaire's odd rhythms, and kept up the quality production that it continues to work even after the novelty has faded.

The video provides an extra dimension to it as well. You once again have great production values, like the song. But there's also the moment at the end when Weird Al meets up with the gangstas to get an illegal bootleg copy of the Star Wars Holiday Special. It's a touching moment of understanding and an acknowledgment that everybody is gonna roll with the gangstas sometimes.

Oh, and in answer to your question, you know the only one you thought was hard: Picard > Sisko > Kirk > Janeway > Archer > Pike > Ömer the Tourist > Chris Pine.

99. Neil Young – Rockin’ in the Free World

This song became an anthem for the collapse of Stalinism, back in the day, mostly thanks to its fist-pumping "Keep on rockin' in the free world" chorus. Of course, the somewhat less-fist-pumping verses portrayed a somewhat more ambiguous picture of the world, one that people were all too happy to ignore (See also, Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA"). Fortunately the video puts that ambiguity to the front and center, serving as a sobering reminder that everything was not coming up roses and daffodils. Maybe if he had released the video earlier, we could have been spared shock treatment.

100. Zemfira – Paranoia [dir. E.T.]

So, we’ve come to the final video, and I know what you’re all wondering: “How could you have gone through the entire list without including any Tartan rock?” Well, I apologize for that and instead provide the next best thing: Bashkir rock!

The song is about insanity, which means you can do pretty much whatever you want in the video, but they still put some effort into it. Three-bladed scissors?! Those things creep me out. And then there's drawing the crazy symbols on the floor, and having it turn out to be a hopscotch course. But the trippiest part is, of course the Adam and Eve characters hiding in the walls. No computer effects or anything. Just paint them in weird patters and paint the walls in the same weird patterns.

It also has a nice ending in which she starts watching the music video that we just finished. It's like looking at a gateway into your own psyche if someone made a music video about it.

Part 1: A-Ha to Besti Flokkurinn
Part 2: Bijelo Dugme to Bruce Cockburn
Part 3: The Coup to Finntroll
Part 4: Freezepop to The Imagined Village
Part 5: Insane Clown Posse to Corb Lund
Part 6: M.I.A. to My Chemical Romance
Part 7: Sinéad O’Connor to Public Enemy
Part 8: Pulp to Smashing Pumpkins
Part 9: Todd Snider to Suzanne Vega
Part 10: Julieta Venegas to Zemfira

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