Harmonicas and Frilly Panties: Culture Club – “Karma Chameleon”

Culture Club Karma Chameleon

Well, we start out with some helpful words on the screen that we’re in “Mississippi-1870”, and right away you know this is going to be a very realistic video because there were so many opportunities for drag queens back in that day. We’re staring at a river, but I have my doubts if it’s the Mississippi River because it only looks about 10-feet wide and ain’t no riverboat gonna get up in that.

The camera pans back from the opening shot and we have an elaborately staged scene with lots of extras dashing about, apparently preparing for the arrival of a riverboat on the river that is not the right river. (In the 1870s, the anticipated arrival of anything was cause for overcompensating celebration, with folks getting all gussied up and putting in their good set of false teeth.) Everybody’s wearing period clothing, so at least the wardrobe mistress was going for authenticity, unlike the location scouts who were clearly drunk and made a wrong turn at some point.

But the fact that the band members are still sporting modern-day haircuts sort of throws things off a bit. (You guys couldn’t wear a wig? Your leader doesn’t have a problem with it, why should you?) Nice atmospheric touch with the cameo of the old guy pretending to play the harmonica, just as we hear that instrument on the soundtrack (it’s magic!), but it’s very clear that gramps had never seen a harmonica before he walked on the set and somebody told him to get busy with the juice box. He’s inappropriately manhandling that thing like he took a Hot Pocket out of the microwave before it had cooled off a bit.

Then, lo and behold, the camera runs across Boy George, dressed in an outfit that is not from any period, perched uncomfortably on top of what might be a tarp-covered Buick. He starts singing as the camera zooms in, and Boy makes sure that he artfully turns his head so we can see he did his own makeup, apparently using a watercolor set and a fistful of pharmaceuticals.

We then focus in on a guy in a top hat (oh wait, all the guys are in top hats, except for the poor folks lugging steamer trunks around for no apparent reason). Anyway, we learn that this particular top-hatted guy is nimbly working the crowd, discreetly stealing gold and jewels from the clueless people who are just trying to look attractive and ignore the fact that mosquitoes are eating them alive and that brown rivers smell very bad in the summer. (We get a shot of one lady who was probably the original inspiration for the phrase “she could eat an apple through a fence”, an unfortunate descriptor that could bode poorly for her self-esteem and marketability. But her dress is really pretty, so if she works it just right, she might be able to score a matrimonial hookup before this video is released.)

Boy George does a nice ambisexual move with his fingerless-gloved hand, which causes everybody to think “hey, we got us a drag queen on that there Buick, let’s go closer!” So they do, marching up to surround Boy, who was obviously born for the spotlight, even if that spotlight is a kerosene lamp held by an urchin wearing a potato sack. Folks are all jigging a bit to the mesmerizing beat, including some out-of-place showgirls who got fired in Tupelo, probably because they insist on wearing dead parrots in their hair, and now they are looking for jobs in a more accepting place where no one judges them for their accessories.

Brief close-up on one of the showgirls, who makes it very obvious that she doesn’t really like the song (honey, don’t snarl like that, ain’t nobody gonna put a ring on it), but she’s going to whip her skirt around anyway if it can get her a smidge of attention. (She’s that girl in high school who would bang anything if it meant nudging her closer to being selected Most Popular by her classmates, only to be stunned when she received the certificate for Most Likely to Procreate.) Quick image of Natalie Cole and Lyle Lovett clapping their hands (no idea) and then we zip over to two blonde-headed boys shoving something in a wicker basket. (Was that last bit a subtle reference to Boy duct-taping his manly bits before a show?)

We get another shot of the worthless guy who can’t play the harmonica (why is he still here?), followed by the other band members shaking their groove thang while standing near one of the dead-parrot showgirls, this one looking amazingly similar to Joan Collins. (Who asked her to be here? Did she just get fired from “Dynasty”?) Then we are treated to a montage bit that is not the finest hour of the editor, with random shots of extras proving that they know the words to the chorus and/or not realizing that the camera is on them whilst they fiddle with body parts that should not be fiddled in public. Meanwhile, Evil Top Hat man is snatching jewels left and right as his many vapid victims gaze upon Boy George and his mesmerizing performance.

Sadly, the montage continues, because once you choose the low road, you discover that there are roads even lower. We are presented with one guy in a straw cowboy hat that is clearly listening to a different song, his body shimmying discordantly in a manner that will not become acceptable until somebody invents Burning Man decades later. And there’s a little girl kicking her legs in musical abandonment, with her tiny feet, which probably should have stayed under her dress per the director’s memo, clad in those “jelly shoes” which won’t even be invented for another 100 years or so. Then again, neither will Boy George’s glitter makeup.

We have even more shots of the crowd in a religious fervor over Boy’s dreadlock drag and hand choreography, hootin and a hollerin and embracing diversity in a manner that wouldn’t have, and wouldn’t still, happen in Mississippi. It’s starting to get a little boring, so thank the personal deity of your choice that the damn massive riverboat finally pulls up on the puny river that couldn’t support a surfboard even on a good day. Everybody is very excited about the arrival, with the chorus girls waving what looks like the national flag of Ghana over their heads and having small orgasms.

Then people start scrambling onto the boat, with an extended shot of that one irritated show girl who is still not happy to be here, stomping along with a pout and getting her flag dirty (among other things). Oh, look, there’s another unhappy woman, this one in a yellow dress and glaring at her man like he ain’t gettin’ nothin’ for dinner. Why are these people so angry? They get to ride on a boat now, and they no longer have to watch a British pop star sing the same four words over and over while flipping his braids and turning to face cameras that aren’t really there.

Anyway, the ship launches toward somewhere that isn’t here, and we now have a poker game going on, because most people never study history and the scriptwriters don’t realize that people can do other things on riverboats besides gambling. The other Culture Club members join the game, as well as evil Top Hat man, while several ladies in pretty hats pretend to be completely interested in the action. Boy George is apparently not allowed to play, and is, in fact, forced to stand outside the room and look in a window while playing the harmonica. (I guess they finally fired that first useless guy and Boy is picking up some extra money because you never know when the record sales might plunge.) I don’t know why they are making Boy-Girl stand out there, but it is 1870, so there may have been some maritime compliance issues concerning flamboyant couture.

The poker game is fairly uninteresting (how many multi-camera shots of people studying their cards and contemplating can a person stand before they lose interest and go review porn on the Internet?), so we’re actually happy when evil Top Hat Man finally wins, even if he cheated. The band members are not so thrilled, however, with one of them even smoking a cigar to show his displeasure, a defiant stance that should not be considered a reflection on his sexual affiliation.

We get a very quick shot of one of the ladies making a startled expression that is entirely too much, an example of over-acting that you rarely see outside of the dinner-theater circuit. (If you pause the video at this point, you can study the women on both sides of Offended Ophelia casting glances at her that one shouldn’t eat the broccoli casserole if they can’t handle the after effects.) Then we roll into a montage of lots of people we don’t know intimately having a Sherlock Holmes moment and realizing that personal items they owned at the start of the video are no longer in their possession. The angry crowd races off to seek revenge on evil Top Hat Man and his sticky fingers, even though Top Hat is sitting right there and all this mess about racing is completely unnecessary.

Still, revenge is a dish best served when other people can see you getting it, so we have a rousing scene with Top Hat being forced by the angry mob to take off his stylish jacket and then walk the plank to his doom. (Proving once again that the scriptwriters are not fully connected to the space-time continuum.) Top Hat hits the water and presumably does not live to resurface, a bit of a stretch considering this river is only about two-feet deep, but his presumed departure puts everyone in a very festive mood.

The chorus girls jump on top of the captain’s cabin and do a nice dance routine, showing us their frilly panties, because Pinterest hadn’t been invented yet and there was nothing else to do. Then everybody else decides, in a very progressive move for 19th-century rural Mississippi, that if the nice drag queen can’t come inside, we’ll just go out there and join him on the deck. And so they do, with the first known gay pride riverboat parade taking place as they sail down the river and the song fades…

Red, gold and green, people. Say it with me. A hundred times.

 

Click here to watch this video on YouTube.

Originally published on 08/18/10, revised and updated with extra flair for this post.

 

Freedom’s Just Another Word for a Complete Lack of Parenting: Kesha – “Tik Tok”

Kesha Tik Tok

We start out with some skeezy-looking girl waking up in a bathtub, and it’s clear that she’s not really sure where she might be. (Don’t start judging at this point. If you have any sense of adventure, there’s been at least one time when you’ve snoozed in a place that wasn’t necessarily designed for slumber.) Eventually home-girl realizes that maybe this isn’t her own bathtub and there might be some type of penalty associated with what she did or didn’t do the previous evening, so she hops out of the cleansing station and proceeds to do some damage control.

First on her agenda? Marching over to the nearby vanity, plucking up one of the anonymous toothbrushes that previously did not contain any of her DNA, and then proceeds to “brush my teeth with a bottle of jack.” Then she waves her ghetto-painted toenails in front of the camera, because it seems like a fun thing to do when you’re a pop star and have your own personal cinematographer, and then she slips on a pair of cowboy boots and little else. (This is probably the part where you can start judging.)

So right away we know we’re dealing with a quality kind of girl, here. Top drawer. Or should I say top shelf? Kesha marches out of the bathroom with some swagger going on (because everyone is essentially self-absorbed until they are at least 30), and she quickly jacks with some pictures of a nice family that are hanging on the walls. Her disrespect of memorabilia is supposed to help us understand that she really doesn’t care about anybody or anything, but I think we grasped her lack of morality starting with the “waking up in a bathtub” bit.

Then she wanders down a flight of stairs in the house, singing about “boys blowing up my phone” and “trying to get a little bit tipsy”. Little bit? Honey, you look like you left “little bit” about five miles back. After you smothered it with a pillow.

She wanders into a breakfast room, where the family from the hanging pictures she violated is just trying to get some nutrition and worship Jesus. Her sudden appearance causes the mom to drop a plate of pancakes, an obvious sign that Satan has just arrived in the suburbs and the Apocalypse can’t be far behind. This is the natural reaction of ignorant folk who have never watched anything other than Fox News.

Kesha then sashays outside the Mormon Tabernacle Condo and decides to steal a bicycle that has been blinged-out in 2-carat gold, because we all know that jewel-encrusted conveyances can easily be found near cheaply-built domiciles in a neighborhood near you. Kesha then rides the bling over to a conveniently-nearby group of wholesome kids who just want to play with balloons and not become ensnared by unexpected pregnancies. But Our Lady of Tawdry Deception quickly convinces them that you really need a pimped-out ride if you’re going to make it anywhere in this world, and the youngsters embrace her vision with startling expediency.

Next up, due to some clearly unfocused editing, we have Kesha looking all trashy while sitting on a curb in front of some wall, while she sings (if you can call it singing) about how all boys want her because “I’ve already got beer and I’m already here.” Then some dudes drive up and pile out, having heard about the beer, and they all look like “beer” is the longest word they can spell.

But Kesha is fine with their potential shortcomings, indicating that her mother may have already prepared her for the reality of marriage, and she quickly jumps in the car with the most redneck member of the posse, and they take off, driving around. Kesha starts singing about “don’t touch my junk,” but this directive is a bit hard to follow when Kesha is bouncing around and thrusting her junk from here to Encino. Sooner or later the sheer gravitational pull of the Earth will result in some junk-touching.

Then the po-po pull the two over, and at first it doesn’t look like a very promising as Kesha is thrown over the hood of the pimp-mobile and forced into a pair of handcuffs. Of course, this is done in a slutty way so we basically get a PG-13 gander at Kesha’s junk that she’s been singing about all along. (Product Placement 101.) And the ease with which Kesha “assumes the position” makes it very obvious that she has sprawled across a few turbo-charged machines in her day.

Next thing you know, Kesha and Redneck are zipping along the highways again, so either the po-po are really bad at their job, or they got hired for a promising pilot that is shooting on the next soundstage and they had to be written out of the script. This is never made clear. What is clear is that Kesha is able to party in the Redneck’s car by standing up through the sunroof and bouncing her ta-tas around in a psychotic frenzy. Kesha also makes a lot of hand gestures to clarify that she is really proud of herself, in case you hadn’t figure that out yet.

Then, suddenly, the car is gone, and Kesha is in some weird, stone-walled room where she appears to be wearing animal fur (PETA alert!) while little bits of something sprinkle down around her. She’s waving her hands around above her head like a really bad witch doctor that forgot to read the training manual and she has to do something interesting to keep her teenage fans voodoo clients from asking for their money back.

This goes on for a while, indicating that the director went AWOL for a bit (surely drugs were not involved in any way) and the remaining crew had to just make things up to kill time. Out of desperation, they bring in a wind machine, and they instruct Kesha to lay on her back and thrust her feet into the air, which I guess means that Kesha is aroused by wind, stone walls, chunky confetti, the possible appearance of a Sleestak from “The Land of the Lost” and the ability to raise her arms and wave them about.

Then we’re transported to a nightclub, where Kesha informs us that “the party don’t start till I walk in.” Really? And what party is that? The “Blowing Smoke Up Your Own Ass” Party? Let me know who your candidate is in the next election, so when I go vote (are you familiar with what that means?) I can be sure to rip his or her name off the ballot and use the strip of paper to light something up at the next Burning Man Festival.

Kesha dances all over this place, with her messy hair and runny mascara, apparently not realizing that Madonna perfected this art form in 1984. We know it’s a real quality establishment, because people are drinking their adult beverages from plastic red cups, always a sign that no expense has been spared. The loser redneck from the mysteriously-aborted run-in with the po-po is in the club, so I guess Kesha is a little sweet on him, even though she keeps singing about how there won’t be any junk-touching.

She keeps dancing. And as she gyrates around and we get a better look at this place, I’m seeing things that make me wonder if this is just somebody’s living room. There’s a mid-80’s ceiling fan and some very ugly couches, the kind that will never be snatched up by junk collectors who troll your neighborhood during the week when the city collects Bulky Trash from your curb. What was the budget on this video, anyway? Amazing as it may seem, said budget was apparently lower than the average teacher’s salary in the United States. I didn’t think it was possible to get under that figure.

We have lots more dancing and runny mascara, with Kesha eventually working her way to the Redneck and possibly offering her junk after all, which is kind of sweet but nowhere near as inspiring as Samantha and Jake sharing cake at the end of “16 Candles”. Just to make sure that the jaded teen viewers grasp the concept of finding love in all the wrong places, we are presented with more chunky confetti falling down on the jailbird lovebirds whilst people pass out around them.

Final scene shows Kesha, trashed and missing some footwear, giggling in a bathtub and settling in for another night. She’s picked up an American flag somewhere, which she’s using as a sweatband or some such on her right ankle. Such a touch of class. Then she presumably goes into an alcoholic coma, where visions of sugar rums dance in her head and she actually believes that she is a role model for the youth of America.

Good gawd.

Parents, send your girls to strict boarding schools with plenty of barbed-wire and severe nuns that resort to whacking people with rulers. It’s not pretty, and there are surely some Constitutional violations in the mix, but it’s got to have better results than this….

 

Click here to watch this video on YouTube.

Originally published on 12/07/09, revised and updated with extra flair for this post.

Panic at the Fertilization Clinic: Buggles – “Video Killed the Radio Star”

Buggles Video Killed the Radio Star

  Trivia tidbit: The was the first music video ever played on the fledgling MTV network back around 1981-ish. This factoid will not change your life in any way, just thought I’d mention it, in case you want to be “that person” at cocktail parties who tries to impress everyone else with his arcane knowledge. You know, the person that everyone stops talking to after a while because they really don’t care? That one.

Anyway, prepare for a shocking display of primitive art, because nobody knew what they were doing back then (a trademark of the Reagan Era). And here we go…

We start out with a cherubic little girl in a red jumper thing fiddling with what I think is supposed to be an old-timey radio, but really looks like a washing machine. There’s a black and white image of some guy with odd glasses and a microphone who keeps intruding from the left side of the screen. It takes exactly one second for this to get annoying.

We pull back so that we can see a full moon shining down on the tyke as she continues her ministrations with the radio washer. I have no idea what the moon symbolizes. Maybe the girl is going to turn into a werewolf if she finds the right station, but werewolves won’t become popular for another thirty years, so who knows.

Oh look, the girl did find a station, and she throws her hands back in a crappy simulation of surprise. She’s a terrible actress. No wonder we never saw her again after this video. Cut to some guy wearing a suit made out of silver Saran wrap and playing some keyboards. He doesn’t seem happy to be here. Maybe he’s the little girl’s agent and just saw her performance.

Okay, now the black-and-white dude is taking up the whole screen. He’s very proud of his curly hair and his odd resemblance to Elton John before EJ did that fake marriage thing. He slides to the right and continues singing while we get another shot of the bad actress, once again jacking around with the radio knobs. One would think she’s supposed to leave that thing alone now. The song is already playing and her limited functionality has been depleted. She’s a bad actress and she doesn’t know when to stop. Wait, is this actually Vanna White before she started flipping letters in sparkly dresses?

Then we get a couple replays of the child’s horrid attempt at method acting, throwing her hands up in a slight seizure as she finds the radio station again and again. Even the radio can’t stand looking at her, and just decides to explode. The little girl then stands there amidst the rubble and looks at us, like she did nothing wrong, but we all know she’s been very, very naughty.

Now we have TWO of the black-and-white singer guys, bellowing from both sides of the screen. It’s a crappy-looking shot now, but it was very high-tech at the time and probably indirectly led to two Lindsay Lohans appearing in a Disney movie. You know, that movie Lindsay made back in the day when she was still interested in having a career and not self-imploding, spinning the roulette wheel of her sexuality and running about flashing her panties.

Another shot of the worthless little girl standing there, but this time she transitions into a woman sporting a strange outfit that is probably supposed to represent futuristic fashion, but really just looks like the wrong people were going to design school at the time. This woman is very accusatory, and she points her finger at us. Hey, I didn’t break the damn radio, that little girl did.

Close-up shot of reels of magnetic tape turning. Fascinating. Could do this for hours.

Then the black-and-white singer guy is there, as a real person this time and not a distorted image. He’s walking around on what might be a stage, because Shiny Jacket Guy is playing a synthesizer next to him, but it might also be a laboratory, because there are computers and such. Then Stupid Outfit Woman suddenly appears again, sliding down the inside of a giant test tube and clutching at her heart while impersonating a coma victim. She wakes up, does a short mime routine, and then stops moving again, as if suddenly realizing that this mess is doing nothing for her career.

I have no idea what she represents. Please don’t send questions.

Then we cut to a monitor of some kind, showing just the heads of two women wearing matching wigs and more stupid sunglasses. They seem to be having difficulty figuring out where to look as they sing the chorus. (Shot of the shiny keyboard player still mad about whatever.) Then the main singer is back, playing peek-a-boo behind another giant test tube. Oh, and there’s the little girl, apparently not fired as she should have been, and now she’s staring at frozen Stupid Outfit Woman. Even Stupid Outfit Woman doesn’t want to be around the little brat, so she zips back up the test tube, which hopefully leads to the wardrobe department and a better couture decision.

Quick shot of the Wig Girls doing hand movements to the lyrics. They’ve finally agreed to look in the same direction, one that doesn’t appear to involve the camera or any degree of sense. Then we have several odd-angle shots of random people playing instruments, and another turn at watching Stupid Outfit Woman shoot up that tube. (Apparently the video director is very invested in this tube action, perhaps intent on turning the image into a branding concept for the band, which is sad. All of the marketing possibilities out there, and he’s going to go with a jacked-up take on in-vitro fertilization?)

And now the talentless brat is back, climbing some unexplained stairs so she can be on top of giant cardboard set decorations designed by people who are clearly not skilled craftsmen. This, naturally, leads to another explosion. You would think these folks would have figured out by now that the little Firestarter has got to go.

The aftershock of Damianetta’s pyrotechnics has caused the Wig Girls to lose their temporary synchronization skills, and they are no longer staring in the same direction, standing rigidly and awkwardly, as if they received surprise enemas when we weren’t looking. Suddenly, television sets start bursting out of the ground for no apparent reason, because this always happens when the director tries to get too arty. Next we have several jump cuts around the studio/laboratory, ending with Main Singer also pointing an accusing finger at us. The people in this video are just vindictive and unwilling to accept any responsibility for what is happening around them. (Is this how the Tea Party started?)

More keyboard playing, followed by Stupid Outfit Woman flying over the set (twice), like a very unfocused super hero. If we’re lucky, she’ll snatch up the little girl and throw her into a volcano, thus saving the world. Instead, walls start sliding out of the way and we have Main Singer and Mad Keyboard Guy playing instruments, and a new musician whose issue seems to be that his tight plastic pants are neutering him. Stupid Outfit Woman is back in the test tube, so she’s either resting after all that flying or she’s hiding from the little brat, who is currently unaccounted for, not having been seen since she caused that second explosion.

And that’s basically it. We finish out the song on this same set, with the camera whirling all over the place because somebody thought that might be fun. Stupid Outfit Woman decides to do an interpretive dance in her tube, and no one bothers to make her stop because there are only a few seconds left in the video and she seems to be very invested in her writhing. Little did we know at the time that people doing inexplicable things in music videos would become the hallmark for decades to come.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is how a new network was born.

I’ll give you a few moments to think about that…

 

Sadly, this video is no longer available on YouTube, indicating some type of copyright issue, so you’ll just have to envision the mayhem. 

(Originally published on 08/04/10, revised and updated with extra flair for this post.)