Wednesday, December 1, 2010

100 Music Videos, Part 6: M.I.A. to My Chemical Romance

Today's installment of "100 Music Videos" is brought to you by the letter "M". All of our featured artists start with "M". But "M" stands for things other than "M.I.A." and "MGMT". It also stands for Man, Music, Mozart. And you will find plenty of examples of music on this list. And there will be two groups of men as well, but no Mozart.

More importantly, "M" is for Morris dancing. And Metropolis. These are things we will definitely see more of in this list. There will also be cows. While cow doesn't begin with "M" in English, it does in Italian, so it still applies to the situation at hand.

So let's get on with it.

51. M.I.A. – Sunshowers [dir. Rajesh Touchriver]

WARNING: This video offended somebody somewhere for some reason.

This video was banned from MTV, which is strange for several reasons. First of all, given how often MTV plays music videos nowadays, you might as well ban it from the Golf Channel. Also, compared to some of her later videos, a bunch of fully-clothed chicks frolicking about the jungle while not being brutally murdered is pretty tame. I suppose somebody really didn't like the idea of cow in the jungle.

52. Kirsty MacColl – Don’t Come the Cowboy With Me, Sonny Jim! [dir. Sarah Tuft]

You know, the world really needs more British cowgirls. She's just so sweet here it's easy to forget she was the foul-mouthed New Yorker in the Pogues "Fairytale of New York".

53. Manu Chao – Me Gustas Tú

It's the frame that does it. If it was just the video of the people dancing goofily it would be all in good fun. But with the frame with all the random animated scribbles and magazine cut-outs popping in and out, it transforms from all in good fun to all in great fun. It's like graffiti that moves. Normally something like that would detract from the video, by drawing attention away from the main show, but since the video is people dancing around and having a good time, it complements it perfectly.

54. Loreena McKennitt – The Mummers’ Dance

I don’t really like the “new age” label being attached to music. “New Age” is a fairly well-defined philosophy, centered on nonsensical spiritual fulfillment and hostility to science. So it’s understandable that people who ascribe to that philosophy would be attracted to old English and Celtic pagan imagery. But, the thing is, old English and Celtic pagan imagery is fun! And you know, there really isn’t enough old English and Celtic pagan imagery in music videos.

So here, we get a lot of “new age” aesthetics going on, but it’s all the goofy rituals associated with “new age” stuff, without all chi and enneagrams and all that. But because it gets the “new age” tag, it turns a lot of people off. If you want real new age music, back up to the Insane Clown Posse video.

55. The Men They Couldn’t Hang – The Colours

Folk and punk: two genres that aren’t usually associated with music videos. Something about the DIY aesthetic goes against the idea of filming things with production values. But the English folk-punks in The Men They Couldn’t Hang decided to be the exception to that rule.

They managed to keep the DIY look by making a video collage to make simultaneously cheap and true to the nautical theme. The result looks both like a slap-dash punk album cover, a slice of English folk revival and an epic ’80s music video. Dressing up in Napoleonic-era sailor suits and engaging in Busby Berkeley-esque semaphore routines has never seemed so punk.

56. Men Without Hats – The Safety Dance [dir. Tim Pope]

Speaking of English folk revival, here’s some Canadian synth-pop.

So now you know: "The Safety Dance" is a Morris dance. Although, you might have been able to figure that out without the video by that line about being free to act like an imbecile. The question is: which dance is it? Upon closer investigation, it is the Three Musketeers, done in the tradition of Bledington as performed by Chippenham Town Morris. This is perfectly acceptable, because nobody can agree what tune goes with that dance anyway: I’ve seen it done with “La Marseilles”, “The British Grenadiers” and “Ode to Joy”. So why not “The Safety Dance”?

There is also some sort of processional they do going into the town square. I’m not sure what dance that is, but it’s not Winster, and that's the main processional I'm familiar with. Any input would be appreciated.

57. MGMT – Kids [dir. Ray Tintori]

WARNING: This video contains brief cartoon nudity.

Judging by the YouTube comments on this, there seem to be two things that go through peoples minds when they see this video: 1) That poor kid is going to be scarred for life! and 2) Man, that chick who plays the mom is hot. To this I say: 1) That kid is acting! He’s pretending to be traumatized! He knows that the monsters aren’t real, because he can see the people operating them! and 2) That chick who plays the mom Joanna Newsom; of course she’s hot!

58. Janelle Monáe – Many Moons [dir. Alan Ferguson]

Now this, my friends, is not a music video. It's the music video. All other music videos hang their heads down in shame at the sight of this music video.

For those unfamiliar, this song is part of an epic suite that's supposed to be some sort of R&B re-imagining of Fritz Lang's Metropolis. But not knowing that doesn't make it any less awesome. What matters is that Janelle Monáe dances like a robot. And I mean that in the best possible terms. I mean a robot programmed to dance in a future in which robo-dancing technology has moved well beyond the uncanny valley and gotten to the point where it surpasses any form of dancing us mere humans could accomplish. She is to dancing like a robot what Deep Blue is to playing chess like a robot. And, as far as I can tell, that's what's happening in the story.

Just to articulate the lengths to which this video goes, watch her eyes. Now normally, when people write dances, they don't include blinking in the choreography. Normally. And in addition to that, you get all the sci-fi special effects displays and the grand storytelling.

59. Mr. Lif – Live From the Plantation [dir. Ian Levasseur]

You know, Mr. Lif looks really funny in a suit and tie, working in a cubicle. Especially given the song title. But it all makes sense in the end, since it’s going after a general sense of working class alienation, whatever that work happens to be. Roots and Office Space are closer than they seem.

This whole connection between old-fashioned slavery and modern-day wage-slavery gives me an idea. Somebody should totally make a whacky office comedy about an actual slave plantation. You can have a slave-owner who’s deluded into thinking he’s friends with the slaves, but they still think of him as the guy who whips them when they don’t produce enough cotton. So whenever he tries to be friendly it gets aaawkwaaard.

And when the slaves get pissed off and smash the cotton gin, they can do something like the “Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangster” scene in Office Space. But rather than having white guys ironically listening to gangsta rap, it would be black guys ironically listening to white-guy music. Music like, uh, like . . .

60. My Chemical Romance – Welcome to the Black Parade [dir. Sam Bayer]

Apparently this song, video, and the album it comes from, is all a metaphor for cancer. I prefer to take it literally. I mean, what’s more fun? A guy with raccoon makeup who was asked by a television to lead a parade of goth chicks in gasmasks through a post-apocalyptic wasteland where it’s raining ash to he can be a champion of the downtrodden? Or Cancer? I thought so.

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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