8.26.14: The Last VJ’s Top 5 Music Videos of the Week
Welcome to The Last VJ, music fans! Did you know that the MTV Music Video Awards just happened? I didn’t watch them because as a professional critic of music videos I was worried that it would cloud my judgment to be exposed to that drivel. The real brilliance is down in the trenches. Come dive with me and find it.
Bunny Michael, “Cool to Me (Nature Slut)”
Bunny Michael is probably the most consistent producer of insane music videos working right now. Mostly because she is just unabashedly insane. She works to the tune of the demon monkeys in her head and puts all that on the screen. “Cool to Me” is a little less ambitious than previous work like “Gasolina”, but there’s still a lot of genius in it.
Essentially, this is a video of Bunny fucking herself. One on layer we have her in black pants and a black bra, but her skin has been made transparent like a window. Through that window we see her without the filter, writhing underneath herself. It’s not all that strong a concept to carry the three minute song, but it is hot and yet another sexual suckerpunch from a modern master of the art.
Long ago (The ‘80s) a staple of music videos was that you could bend the world around you magically with the power of a guitar solo. Someone starts to shred and suddenly walls explode and things catch on fire and everyone basically become a musical version of Harry Potter.
Intergalactix is bringing that back pretty well. The Ambassador, who lives in a lavish Tardis disguised as an abandoned trailer, is called up the world to wander the Earth dispensing funktations through his magical glowing MacGuffin. He makes people dance, turns them into yo-yo wizards, and otherwise performs miracles of a whimsical sort. Director Steve Condon has got a great eye for making memorable characters, and the music itself is top-notch happy pop.
Shabazz Palaces, “#CAKE”
To be totally honest, I’m not even sure what freakin’ genre of music Shabazz Palaces represents. It’s rap if someone filtered it through Black Leather Jesus, or maybe hip hop from P.L.X.T.X. Whatever it is, it’s new, powerful, and it’s got a hell of a music video to go with it.
Hiro Murai directs it, and it’s as hard to describe as the music itself. It’s a weird, burnt out industrial town, but it’s haunted by titanic nude goddesses and three-faced disembodied heads. Hands come arching up out of the ground menacing like a damned Catherine level, and there’s a giant snake as well just in case you were feeling too comfortable.
What makes “#CAKE” so genius is how subtle all those things come and go. If you just glance at the video here and there you’d miss them among fairly pedestrian footage, but they spring in and out of the frame like bits of a nightmare. Fantastic stuff.
Somos, “Lives of Others”
Me, I’m a sucker for any video that makes me feel like a teenager staying up way too late to watch 120 Minutes. Somos and directors Jane Urban and Ryan Dight capture that grainy, lost majesty. No real plot, no great artistic reach, but it’s always nice to remember the glory days.
Taylor Swift, “Shake it Off”
I’ve chosen to highlight Ms. Swift’s latest video this week because it is the best of something. That thing would be the best example of what the hell is wrong with mainstream artist and music videos.
I’m actually a huge Swift fan, but she’s never really been a great music video artist. “Haunted” maybe had some oomph, but for the most part all her music videos are forgettable. This though, is ridiculous. It’s essentially a collection of her pretending to dance in different styles for all of three seconds before showing that the rhythm is never really going to get her and cutting to actual professional dancers. On top of that is an ultra-dated ideal about how there are legions of people out there who will hate on you for dancing or liking music.
That shit died with ‘80s hair metal, and praise be to Allah it did. I find it sad and troubling that a star with as much clout, money, and reach as Swift and the many others out there able to snag a YouTube audience of 46 million can’t seem to be bothered spending even five seconds trying to do anything with cinematic meaning in a music video. The last great mainstream music video was “No Church in the Wild” and that was a spot of rain in a near-decade of quality drought.
The art of the music video seems to have no wealthy patrons. Everything good I’ve covered in the last two years is birthed from a few thousand bucks, a couple of mad people with cameras, and a sense of adventure. The people who can afford it the most like Taylor Swift? They’d rather become tired memes. All that success and they all attempt exactly zero with it.
Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.
by Guest Author