Month: April 2015

The Dungeon of Wetness and Pelvic-Thrusting: Janet Jackson – “Rhythm Nation”

Janet Jackson Rhythm Nation

 

We start off in some huge and creepy warehouse, where we don’t really know what’s going on other than someone forgot to put color film in the camera. Everything is all black and white, so this is going to be really arty and/or really low-budget. There’s an ominous elevator coming down from somewhere, water dripping down the walls, and menacing machines all over the place that probably have evil functions that we don’t want to know about.  Janet and her little friends are doing that monotone voiceover, sounding like Franciscan monks practicing for an exorcism. This is not a destination that Little Mary Sunshine would program into her GPS.

The camera zooms in on a young man huddled in a corner. He appears to be crying, most likely due to all the depressing crap on the set. He turns to look at that arriving elevator, confusion and horror in his eyes, so Rush Limbaugh is probably inside it. But before we can determine if we need to scream and run, we cut to some folks clamoring down a ladder. The camera doesn’t show us their faces, so they might be in the Witness Protection plan after having done something they shouldn’t have at the top of that ladder.

Cut to a close-up of water dripping into a puddle, which is like watching paint dry, only with better sound effects.

Suddenly, we’re in a part of the warehouse where it looks like someone has converted a sinister loading dock into a dance floor, which proves to be very helpful, because Janet and her Rhythm County dancers have just arrived. They quickly get into a triangular formation and simultaneously do that little leg-spreading hop that means “we are about to start performing the intense choreography that will make you feel untalented and useless by the end of the video.”

Close-up of Janet holding up her gloved fingers (what is it with the Jacksons and handwear?) and doing a little countdown for us, then boom, the music kicks in and everybody is bopping all over the stage in perfect synchronization, which means they had to do 300 takes of this bit until everybody popped at the same time, because nobody is that good. The precision-dancing goes on for a while, then we cut to another area with catwalks and lots of unexplained steam.  Some of the back-up backup dancers are over here, undulating on little stages where strippers would normally be if this was a gentleman’s club.

Janet jumps into view, finally kicking off the vocals. She starts explaining why we are all part of the rhythm nation, but it’s a little hard to pay attention because she’s sporting this ginormous, vaguely-military medal on her chest. (What the hell did she have to do to win that?) Speaking of military, everybody is dressed in garb that looks like some type of dark-ops cadet corps. We’ve got a serious uniform fetish going on here. But their intimidating boots sound really cool when they stomp them on the floor, so it’s all good.

We get a glimpse of that young man wandering around in the pipes and steam. You’d think he would have high-tailed it out of here once the 4th Battalion started in with the Electric Slide, but we haven’t lived his life so we can’t really judge his personal decisions in a dank warehouse.

Meanwhile, Janet and her friends are back on the loading dock, doing more gyrations. I notice that Janet’s ponytail is really dramatic, with her copious locks flying about prettily as she whips her head, while the other female dancers have ponytails that have been slicked-up and tightly bound, not moving a millimeter. This seems a little unfair to the non-Janet girls, but maybe this is just something that’s in Janet’s contract. (“I must have the biggest hair or I’m not leaving the dressing room.”)

I guess it doesn’t really matter, since everyone seems to be having a swell time.  We spend a while on the loading dock, occasionally cutting over to this odd, really long room where Janet and the Janettes march toward the camera in a dominating manner, sort of like the “uh oh, that’s not good” scenes in Night of the Living Dead when the zombies band together and storm the old wooden house. (Maybe if the video producers hadn’t decided to film in black and white, I wouldn’t have gone there, but they did, so I did.)

We eventually find Janet and a few of her closest backup dancers in yet another part of the warehouse, where they are doing a special routine that mostly involves them striking various poses that require them to hold their fists up in front of their faces. Okay, then. They are prepared to fight. But, um, what are they fighting? The steam? The script? The over-abundance of reality shows on TV?

We make another visit to the loading dock, because it’s time for another major line dance, this one having something to do with everybody pointing their fingers and thrusting their hips. It’s all very well done, of course, because you don’t get to be in a Janet Jackson video unless you know what the hell you’re doing. The backup dancers are hitting every critical plot point in the choreography as if their lives depended on it. And really, it does. You get your ass kicked off a Jackson shoot, you better have a Plan B for your career choice.

Another shot of the young man just wandering around Area 57 when he really should be finding an exit door. Instead of fleeing, he decides to pause and watch Janet and the drill team continue with their exuberant rhythmic moves. I’m not sure why he’s forced to review the dancing from the other side of a chain-link fence (what is that all about?) but it’s a good thing that he decided to stick around, because this is the section where the choreography goes into overdrive, with the dancing folks performing moves that most humans couldn’t accomplish without a personal trainer and lots of free time on their hands.

This part goes on for a very long time. Not that this is a bad thing, it’s just that the energy unleashed during this segment is enough to power the city of Newark for three years. I was completely exhausted, and all I did was push play. If we could get that kind of power unleashed during election season, the whole country might be in a better place. Food for thought, yes? (Quit eating nachos and watching reruns of Sex in the City, get in the car and go vote.)

Then we head to what I’m assuming is one of the basement levels of the warehouse. (No one handed me a map, so I’m just guessing here.) In this bit, Janet and a select cadre of dancers are performing an interpretive piece that I believe has something to do with… hell, I don’t know. We have cameo dancers who are very limber and can do the splits. They are very invested in their craft, and they perform some admirable moves, especially the one guy (girl?) with the nunchucks. S/he’s whipping those things around with an intensity that would certainly make me pay attention to whatever cause s/he represents. I’m writing out a donation check right now, you can let me know what I just supported some other time. Please don’t whap me upside the head with something on the end of a chain.

Next up, we roll into a montage of Janet and the High-Kicking Cadets doing their thing all over the warehouse. Sometimes we have just a few of them doing something intricate in a shadowy hallway, other times we have the entire population of Nevada doing pelvic thrusts in a massive steam-drenched room full of metal walkways that might be a gay bar in SoHo. Eventually we get to the point where Janet and Friends are doing that extended sequence where they keep popping their heads to one side repeatedly, in what looks like a very painful dance move.  Even the Young Man, who doesn’t seem to have a purpose other than to run around and fail at getting out of here, pauses in his lackluster running with an expression saying “That’s gotta hurt, girl. Why you jackin’ with your neck like that?”

Janet  doesn’t really have time to answer him, because this is also the part of the video where the camera keeps zooming in for a close-up of Janet and that big-ass key hanging from her right earlobe, whilst she sing-pleads for us to “say it for” all of the oppressed people of the world. This is a very admirable plea, but I’m still not getting the military theme with the severe outfits. Or the shadowy darkness. Or the still inexplicable steam that keeps billowing like something mechanical is having an orgasm.

I guess it really doesn’t matter, because we head into the last bit of the story, with Janet and the Janettes doing a final line dance on the loading dock, wherein they seem to be telling the story of what happens when you add sugar to your already-sugared breakfast cereal. These folks are caught up in a synchronized fervor, full of athleticism and grace and a splash of dominance, that it makes us wish for two seconds that we could also be so fit and rhythmic. Then we get over it and go back to eating our bucket of ice cream as we sit on the couch and belch for three solid hours.

Suddenly, Janet and all the Janet-Clones hunch over to the right and freeze in position, abruptly ending their manic choreography. (That’s the downside of a sugar high. Once the beloved white granules work their way through your system, the party’s over. You either eat another fistful of jellybeans or you take a nap.) Apparently the main storyline has reached its conclusion, even if we didn’t realize that there was a story.

Meanwhile, the Young Man, who just wants to get the hell out of here and find a place where people aren’t aggressively dancing for inexplicable reasons, manages to stumble his way toward that elusive Exit Door. He opens it, and a Jackson family member hands him a glove…

 

Click here to watch this video on YouTube.

Originally published on 05/27/13, revised and updated with extra flair for this post.

 

A Shocking Absence of Lemon Garnishes: Adele – “Rolling In the Deep”

Adele Rolling In The Deep

  We start off with Adele sitting in a chair, in what might be a hotel conference room, as long as that hotel is somewhere vaguely European. It seems we have some remodeling going on in this hotel, since some of the furniture is covered in plastic and such, but nobody is standing around explaining anything, so who knows. What we do know is that Adele is sporting a hair bun that could easily take over the planet. This makes me a little tense.

We start getting jump shots of a Ninja Woman in another room where there seems to be mounds of snow on the floor. It’s not clear if this is an artsy statement about local weather conditions or an advertisement about the availability of inhalant drugs in this community. Cut to a shot involving thousands of water glasses covering the floor of an otherwise nondescript lobby in said hotel. This makes me think that lazy waiters have not adequately attended to parched customers in the hotel restaurant, and it saddens me.

Then we have a drummer, banging on his instruments while shoved under an obscure staircase. The mystical nature of his origin story is not immediately evident. Has he been bad? Is he in timeout? Or does he just not understand that this is probably not an appropriate place to beat on things?

We get more shots of the brimming water glasses. They are vibrating to the beat of the song, which might be triggering their reproductive instincts and thus explaining why there are so many of them. This is a potentially important development, I’m just not sure why.

At 35 seconds into the fun, we have a tribute to R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” video, with crinkled paper taped to a wall, moody lighting and an array of inexplicable props. This is very cool, if they planned it. Not so much if they didn’t. And why is Adele unable to get up from her chair? Is she scared of water? There’s certainly enough of it around.

Oh look, that Ninja Woman has had enough of the snow, and she starts to… I’m not sure what she’s doing. I don’t know if that’s a leaf blower or a walking cane, but she’s using it in a violent manner on the pretty snowflakes. I think there might be some issues that we don’t comprehend, and probably shouldn’t question. Just let the woman work it out.

Meanwhile, Adele’s hair bun continues to dominate the world.

Okay, we start getting glimpses of some shattered crockery piled up on the floor. It’s never a good sign when you encounter hillocks of violated dinnerware, but let’s see where this goes. Well, it seems that somebody is at the top of a staircase and hurling cups and saucers at a conveniently-placed movie-screen thing, which is resulting in the Pottery Barn fallout on the floor. Since we can’t see the person destroying things while trying to remain hidden and escape blame, I’m going to guess this person is Sarah Palin.

We roll into a montage, with jump shots of culinary destruction, Adele still captive in her chair despite the lack of visible restraints, twirling Ninja Woman with the negative attitude about frozen precipitation, and that drummer who really doesn’t understand that he’s probably not in the right spot if he wants to gain a following. Why can’t he simply go start a band page on Facebook just like 70 million other bands?

Oh, and we have more shots of the glasses. The creepy water glasses all lined up and staring at us with their uniformity and rabbit-like population explosion. And not a single one of them has a lemon wedge. I really don’t care for those things. Just say no.

This goes on for a while. Hair bun, plate-smashing, Ninja ballet and inappropriate drumming. I’m sure there are people watching this who can figure out all of the symbolism in about three seconds and then write a thirty-page essay on the structured allegory of it all, with references to Greek mythology and Enya. I’m not at that point just yet. Apparently I didn’t take the right classes in college or maybe something happened in kindergarten that stunted my ability to process water-based imagery.

Finally, we get something new, with the camera zooming in on what might be a model of the New York City skyline, arranged on a fancy table in a room with discarded deer antlers piled on the left side. Before we have enough time to study the model and figure out where the best subway entrances might be, we have to go back and check up on Bun, Ninja, Drummer, and Glasses. They all seem to still be invested in their original assignments, so we don’t learn anything new.

Brief shots of some ceiling medallions involving man-horses shooting arrows at unseen targets. I’m going to guess that this symbolizes record producers. Or maybe Adele just has a fondness for beastly men with archery skills. But she certainly doesn’t get out of her chair and hand them her phone number.

Suddenly, back at the NYC Skyline Table, somebody sets off what might be sparklers on the ceiling, and flaming bits of some such shower down on the buildings. That’s nice. Like the people of New York appreciate reminders that crap can fall from the sky and force them to make updates in their daily planners. Oh, and it gets better. While Bun, Ninja, Drummer and Crockery continue to cavort, some of the model buildings actually catch on fire and melt. Insensitive, much?

Then again, I wasn’t asked to participate in the planning sessions for this video, probably because I drink too much and they knew I would take too long to answer my emails. So it’s entirely possible that I’ve missed the boat here, with Adele and her producers focused on a vision that has nothing to do with terrorists and disruption of wireless service, and more to do with an embittered woman getting her musical revenge whilst trapped in a hotel where thirsty people are not satisfied.

Final shot is of Adele and her belligerent hair sitting in silence, staring at the floor. She’s probably wondering just how the hell they are going to pay yet another hotel bill where some fool in her posse thought it would be fun to throw plates down a staircase…

 

Click here to watch this video on YouTube.

Originally published on 04/2011, revised and updated with extra flair for this post.

 

Pretty Shoes Can Save Your Life: Katy Perry – “Wide Awake”

Katy Perry Wide Awake

  Note: This song is being promoted as “the final chapter from ‘Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection’, which is available on iTunes. (And possibly The Cooking Channel, based on that title.) Apparently, that whole “Teenage Dream” album was a song cycle, detailing the various travails of our plucky lass as she worked her way from wherever she was to wherever she is now. This final song should wrap things up nicely, and even if it doesn’t, it’s still another exciting opportunity to see how Katy’s people have managed to once again use fluffy, pastel colors and form-fitting couture to showcase the naughty-nice exploits of our sparkling heroine as she triumphs both musically and artistically.)

We start out with Katy finishing up filming one of the scenes from the “California Gurls” video. This was the bit where she wallered around completely naked on the giant wad of pink cotton candy. (Which, by the way, should make you think twice about your choices the next time you walk up to a concession counter. Do you really want to munch on something that has already been humped? I’d stick with the pre-wrapped options.)  The director calls cut, everybody claps, and Katy hollers “another one in the can!”, which is probably not something one should holler whilst sprawled on her belly, hiney in the air, wearing nothing but spun sugar.

It doesn’t faze Katy, though, as someone hands her a robe and she scurries off to her dressing room, chatting with the director because you have to do that if you want to make sure that you look the prettiest in a movie. Once alone in her chamber, Katy plops down at the makeup desk, takes off one of what must be her 412 wigs, and then pauses to gaze at her image in the mirror. At first we think, wow, she must really like looking at herself, but then we hear some wind blowing and the camera whirls, so Katy was just professionally setting up a story transition by acting with her eyes.

Now we have Katy in another location, wearing a purple wig, an outfit that could pass as Goth or possibly really-unfocused Mennonite, and a pair of earrings that will instantly break eBay sales records. She looks at the camera and belts out the first “I’m wide awake!” announcement that she will then make 300 more times before the song is over. The camera pulls back so that we can see she is standing in the middle of some old stone structure that appears to go on for miles. (Is this symbolic of the stodgy, old-timer record executives who really don’t understand what is considered good music these days? Perhaps.)

Then Katy starts wandering around this structure, which appears to be a giant and creepy maze, complete with cobwebs,  billowing fog, and questionable wetness. She’s holding aloft an ancient lantern to help her find her way. Personally, I don’t want to go anywhere that requires me to hoist portable lighting so I can better see the zombies that might think my brains are an appetizer, even if the lantern is kind of cool and would look great on my patio. The camera pulls upwards so we can see that, yep, it’s a big-ass maze. If Katy plans to get out of here any time soon, she better pack a lunch and some vodka.

Oh, and it’s snowing in an odd, wispy way, which makes this maze look a bit like the one in The Shining. You know, the movie where Jack Nicholson went crazy in a hotel because dead guests were wanting to have sex with him and Shelley Duvall kept opening her mouth really, really wide every time she screamed about something else she found dissatisfying. This is turning out to be a non-ideal vacation spot. Katy needs to get on the horn with one of her assistants and get a new itinerary.

Whoops, Katy just spied a strawberry suspended from a dead tree. This is the part where the people who want to live to the end of the movie would run like hell, clawing their way over surprised lesser starlets who were only hired to have promiscuous sex and then die in the first ten minutes. But Katy doesn’t high-tail it. Nope, she seriously contemplates the berry while the walls seem to close in around her (another sign that you should run, or at least stop taking so many recreational pills). And of course she gives in and takes a big ole bite, because whatever might happen could prove to be really good song material for her next album.

Suddenly, the walls start rolling back to their assigned places. (Note to self: If you are being attacked by architecture, eat some fruit.) Then Katy leans back so a shower of sparks starts shooting out of her gothic breast. (The same pyrotechnics that we witnessed in the Firework video, a feat which was interesting then, but now seems to indicate that Katy might have some type of fetish that could seriously affect her electric bill.)

The fireball shoots into the sky like a drag-queen flare over the dank and darkened maze, which is apparently a signal that someone has been anticipating. A stone gate that we didn’t know existed opens wide (there are always doors like that in giant mazes, because people get lost and you have to go find their ass without getting too far behind on the office paperwork) and we see a little girl standing there in a little girl outfit. (This is not what I expected as rescue personnel. Was Liam Neeson too busy? That man can find people. And usually kill them if they don’t answer his questions satisfactorily.)

At first the little girl just stands there, kind of glaring at us like she’s really disappointed that our minimal cookie order was not very supportive of her troop. Then we have Katy and Little Girl facing each other and doing some type of mystical hand choreography, followed by both of them changing into matching outfits so they can walk down a narrow hallway with mirrors on all the walls. They get to the end of this hall, where we can see lots of paparazzi on the other side of one of the mirrors. Katy doesn’t seem impressed with this and doesn’t want to go forward, but if she really wants to get out of this mess I’m thinking one of those folks out there probably has a brochure map that they picked up at the guest services desk.

To help Katy make a decision, Little Girl helpfully points out that the floor behind them is crumbling and dropping out of sight. (Perhaps we should escalate whatever plan you have? Besides, I have some really important pre-school social activities that I need to attend instead of tromping around at Druid-Palooza.) So Katy grabs her hand and they go through the looking glass.

We cut to a stone-walled hospital/sanitarium of some kind, where Little Girl is pushing Katy along in a wheelchair down a hallway. I guess whatever was on the other side of the mirror was a bit too much, and Katy is now slumped over and unresponsive, though she’s still managing to clutch a strawberry in one hand. They come to a point in the hallway where two orderlies wearing bull-heads will not let anything pass. (I’m guessing the bull-heads are Republican congressmen.)

Little Girl marches up to the bulls, glares at them in the manner that little girls have when they are determined to own a Barbie Malibu Camper no matter what, and then she stomps her dainty little foot. Girl must have game, because the shockwaves of her sequined-slipper slapping the concrete causes the Bull-Heads to fly upwards and disappear. (What is it with sequined shoes that cause people to fly through the air or instantly transport back to black-and-white Kansas?)

The footwork also causes Katy to jolt back to her senses, and she leaps out of the wheelchair, grabs the arm of Little Girl, and they both race toward the now-unobstructed exit doors. (Leaving the poor strawberry behind, so I’m sure it will be needing some therapy.) They scurry around a corner and out into a lovely garden full of pretty flowers and delicate trees and topiary animals with eyes that spin. (Okay, that last bit is a little unnerving, with the spinning eyes that speak of the devil, but I’m not real fond of topiary animals in the first place. Those things just don’t seem right, but I’m sure someone finds them pleasing or they wouldn’t exist.)

Katy and Little Girl mosey about for a bit, admiring the prettiness but still not convinced that the Bull-Heads won’t come after them with more meanness and a possible lawsuit. Then they come across a handsome man on a steed (or maybe it’s a unicorn, there’s something horn-like going on with the horse’s head), with the man in a nice Prince Charming outfit.  He hops off the uni-horse, Katy steps forward in a slightly-lusty manner, and they approach each other like it’s the final scene in a Hallmark movie.

Then the camera shows us that Prince Charming is crossing his fingers behind his back, so we instantly know he’s up to no good. Somehow Katy senses his deception (possibly because Little Girl makes a horrid little face that normally indicates gastrointestinal discomfort), so she hauls off and punches Charming so that he flies across the clearing and crashes through a section of the garden that the prop people apparently didn’t fortify very well. Katy celebrates her victory with a short solo, complete with more hand choreography.

Then the girls grab hands and race to a conveniently heart-shaped opening in a wall of foliage, which allows them to see a glowing door in the distance that probably leads to safety and happiness. (Or it might lead to a nuclear power plant leaking radiation. If you see the ghost of Karen Silkwood float by, scratching at her skin, you better head the other way.) But it’s all good, and the girls are finally free.

Just before they part ways, which they have to do because the shoot is almost over and they both have other projects lined up, Little Girl puts something in Katy’s hand and then skips her way down a typical residential street to her bicycle parked at the curb, a vehicle which has apparently been patiently waiting for his petite mistress while she went to go play Dungeons and Dragons and do that thing with her foot. Little Girl waves, then pedals away, and we can see that the vanity license plate on the bike says “Katheryn”.

Awwww.

Katy, now alone, opens her hand, and as a sparkly butterfly takes off, we transition back to Katy’s dressing room, where Katy briefly watches the butterfly soar as she sits there in another candy-based outfit, briefly reflecting on the dreams that become real and the dreams that don’t. Then she grabs her wireless microphone, heads out the door, climbs onto the lift that raises her to stage level,  and marches out into yet another concert, bolstered by the memories of little girls making wishes on pretty butterflies…

 

Click here to Watch this Video on YouTube.

Originally published on 11/01/12, revised and updated with extra flair for this post.