by MrMoth and anise
This is a sort of ‘behind the curtain’ version of Mostly Pop this month; every time I’m called upon to write this column, I sit down a few days before with YouTube, a laptop and a sparring partner – my wife. Over the course of the next few hours we watch, with increasing horror, the videos for the latest pop releases (or not that latest, thanks to the On Air, On Sale policy which totally screws with my timetables). The following is not a transcript (because I am usually struck dumb during these sessions and can only communicate through eye gestures and screams – that doesn’t make good reading), but it is sort of how the process goes.
Marcus Collins – Seven Nation Army
Moth: Well, *someone* can write a song. That someone being Jack White, of course. Collins’s version is a thin streak of reggae-scented piss compared to the majestic White Stripes original, but it is inoffensive for all that. By defiantly removing that which made Seven Nation Army a great song (the earthquake riff, the pounding heartbeat drums, the cathartic guitar solo) and replacing it with the music that backs every Olly Murs track in existence, the producers here have made something as different to the original as it is possible to be, while still being obviously the same song.
anise: So who is this guy, is he new? I am accustomed to new acts having their first video set in a warehouse – this is not a warehouse – well not unless it was a whole warehouse which has been painted white and pink. Man! The whole budget must have been spent on white and pink paint!
M: He’s X Factor. I recognise him from the couple of episodes watched for research when writing the Christmas piece. The video reminded me of Dead or Alive’s You Spin Me Round, only I’d swear the budget was bigger for that, even disregarding inflation. At least Pete Burns had a lampshade.
a: Pete Burns didn’t only have a lampshade. He also had a wall. And maybe a ladder. Were there curtains hanging on the window he walked by? Poor Marcus only has dancing ladies (one of whom looked just like Posh Spice – oh wait – the budget went on her! Her and her well-known, all-consuming obsession with green jelly beans!).
M: Actually, having now re-listened, I revise my opinion from ‘inoffensive’ to ‘worse than Hitler’. Honestly, it’s like White Stripes Karaoke Klassiks. He can’t even hit the notes. They released this! Listen to it! They actually put this out as a single!
a: I didn’t mind it. Can’t say I liked it, but I wouldn’t run across the room to switch it off. There’s a ringing endorsement.
MIA – Bad Girls
a: Knit one, purl one, bad girls do it well; knit one, purl one, bad girls do it well. This is a fiendish earworm. An earworm apparently dedicated to knitting. I have been singing it all morning.
M: I do kind of heart MIA. OK, she’s mixing with the likes of Madonna – but still she carries on producing badass, confrontational videos like this, with niqab-wearing stunt drivers pulling amazing moves in the fringes of the Moroccan desert, to the general apathy of a crowd of (intended to be Saudi?) men. Even with such stern competition, MIA still wins the World Indifference Cup for her nail filing work atop a car tilted at 45 degrees.
a: I loved the crowd of men standing on the massive concrete pipes as the cars screeched by. They were like a real live game of 10 green bottles.
M: I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a song by MIA this much since Kala; with its hypnotic chant of a chorus and swirling Middle-Eastern backing, this is just a win all round for me. I can’t see it setting the charts alight – it’s too odd and awkward, perhaps – but who knows? A collaboration with one of the biggest pop stars on the planet might propel MIA to unexpected heights.
a: The beginning was a bit dodgy – thin and stringy and out of kilter – but then it all kicks off properly, and the earworm is set. The earworm that I still have.
Adam Lambert – Better Than I Know Myself
M: Now it’s my turn to ask who this person is. Who is this person? Why does he look like Eddie Izzard doing a Gary Numan impression? Here in my car, I am covered in bees. I’m going to check Wikipedia.
a: Oh emo boy! I loved the dramatic swigging of the water from the vodka bottle. All he really needs is a hug and a decent make up remover. Did you see the eyeliner?! It went everywhere, and I worried terribly for his laundry – I hope he uses Vanish.
M: You may mock, but – according to Wikipedia – Adam actually is a panda. So be kind to him, and his gentle, bamboo-loving ways. This is probably an anguished love song about how he finds it very difficult to find a mate and, even when he does, he can’t produce children very well in captivity. The video is an allegory for that.
a: Pandas aside, the question that really needs answering is whether Benicio Del Toro was on the other side of a door in the orange half of the room, and was Michael Douglas on the blue side? Thinking about this kept me entertained while Adam went about his rebellion by numbers on the screen. I forget – was there an exploding shot of pottery being smashed? There should have been. A head in hands shot? A looking up to the heavens shot?
M: He broke a mirror in his anguish, as a sort of surrogate pottery smash. Anyway, the song was the sort of over-produced shite you’d expect from an American Idol winner, although in fact he was runner up. Yeah, I really am reading Wikipedia. Wow, this Wikipedia entry is amazingly gushing. Meat Loaf rated Lambert’s voice in the company of only two others, Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin! Meat Loaf said that! Sorry, Meat, but I totally did not get that from this song. It was the very definition of pedestrian.
Alexandra Burke – Elephant
M: This is, and regular readers will know how much of an insult I mean this to be, sub-David Guetta rubbish. In an effort to make this song more enjoyable, I’ve decided to interpret the lyrics literally. So when she says there’s an elephant standing in the room, I like to think this is a song about the time Alexandra and her boyfriend (maybe Jermain Defoe?) visited a zoo and got to go in the elephant compound because she’s a pop star and he’s a footballer.
She goes on to complain that it’s crushing her, there’s no room to breathe, which makes me think it was quite a small room they were in. It’s also blinding her, which is not very nice of the elephant. I’m going to choose to believe that it was just putting its trunk in front of her eyes in a friendly, playful way. Jermain was keen to talk about it, he wants to talk about it, but I think she is more concerned with the crushing issues.
a: The video contained the oddest and most varied selection of props ever featured in a popular music moving picture. I swear at one point there was a hedge trimmer. What was that all about?
M: That’s the heffalump in the room, we mustn’t talk about it. That and Alexandra’s alarming chin. Nice, incidentally, to see pop embrace corporate bullshit management speak.
Chris Brown – Turn Up the Music
a: I had no idea that Chris Brown had such vigorous limbs! They were all over the place! Arms, legs, up, down, left, right – it was enormously tiring to watch. It did make me wonder if he was limbering up for a date. I still cannot believe they gave him a Grammy.
M: Oh, I’ve totes forgiven Chris for his little run-in with Rihanna. Let’s all forgive and forget, eh? Who hasn’t repeatedly punched and throttled their girlfriend before leaving her for dead in a parked car, hey guys? And if you go around producing bona fide pop classics like, uh, whatever this is, well, it’s hard to stay mad.
a: I want to talk about the video.
M: Yes, quite right, let’s not harp on about the punch, bite and asphyxiation injuries Chris Brown inflicted on his partner. This is a seriously weird video. The stuff with the masks at the beginning is, you know, standard ‘oh, look how bizarre’, but it’s made weird by the fact that it just never comes up again, once he’s in the club. Why not? Why does it just become him dancing with increasingly alarming ferocity in front of fewer and fewer people?
a: I assume he is systematically knocking the people out.
M: Also, why does this, like the Alexandra Burke video, just sort of stop? How comfortable is convicted domestic abuser Chris Brown with looking like a violent maniac? I guess quite comfortable. You can punch me any time, Chris!
JLS – Proud
a: I literally cannot remember anything about this video.
M: No, me neither. Sorry, JLS!