Short Story

Moses and the Thin Commandments: Kings of Leon – “Use Somebody”

kings-of-leon-use-somebody

Okay, we start off in some penthouse living room where people are sitting around and watching-

Whoops, now we’re not there anymore. Suddenly, we’re in some type of aircraft and the pilot is either drunk or just very confused as we zip dangerously close to tall buildings in a large city. Then we start seeing jump cuts of the band getting ready for either a show or some type of therapy. You never know with these music types. One day you have a hit single on the radio and virgins are professing their undying love because they have low self-esteem, the next day you’re in rehab and preparing for your guest role on the latest series about “what happens to people who make a lot of money too fast”.

Quick shot of a shirtless somebody lying on the floor of some random room. He doesn’t appear to have any legs, which could totally change the context of the entire video. But instinct tells me that the legless aspect might just be the result of people having focus issues. Not accusing anybody of anything, just pointing out that 97% of what you see in a music video is the result of folks drinking a few beers and then saying “hey, what if we throw in something that has nothing to do with the song? If it works for politicians, it can work for us!”

Anyway, we then have more of that crazy plane flying through the city night, where we aren’t sure if we’re seeing an advertisement for the latest XBOX game or if this is some type of terrorist training video. This is followed by a brief shot of a half-naked couple being intimate, with low-level lighting and zero-fat supermodels pawing one another like there’s a prize at the bottom of the cereal box. If the producers are taking audience-participation votes, I’d say we ixnay the “Top Gun” action and remain on the ground, even if it means more footage of people we don’t know who are on the verge of procreating for all the wrong reasons.

Finally, the flying and the intro music settles down and we get to the opening vocals. We have a tight close-up on the lead singer’s face, which is supposed to signify that he’s very emotional and really into these words. It’s very soothing after the loud craziness of the first thirty or so seconds, but I won’t be surprised if we’re suddenly back on Air Force One and Harrison Ford has to do something very heroic at just the right time or we all die.

Then we start jump-cutting again, and we’re bouncing back and forth between the crazy plane and the people sitting around in the penthouse living room. Still not sure what those penthouse people are doing. It’s very dark and they look bored and unsatisfied. Are these folks college graduates who are waiting for their degrees to actually mean something? Good luck with that.

Okay, now they’re cutting in brief shots of a concert, so it’s about time for the big blow-out on stage that most of these videos eventually get to. (So far, you can’t really call this the most original video ever created, but at the same time, most of these videos are “directed by” and “produced by” people who don’t know a single thing about artistry and musicianship, so they go into management, just like the real world.)

And then we have the big “jamming on the stage” sequence just as the wailing chorus kicks in. The camera is all over the place, naturally, to create excitement. Otherwise, it’s just people standing there and fondling their instruments, and with today’s attention-deficit society you must have excitement and movement or many folks just doze off due to their unnecessary but stock-boosting medication.

Shot of people at what looks like a clinic, with guys hugging each other as they’ve apparently just heard satisfying test results concerning something or other. (Not pointing fingers, but there are always baby daddy issues in the music world. It’s some type of requirement.) Or maybe they just like excuses to hug. It’s not my place to judge. If some men need to create fake drama in order to touch each other, so be it.

Now the band is at some bar, where people are playing pool and smoking an incredible amount of cigarettes. Oh, and drinking beer. They keep love-tapping their bottles together so we don’t miss the beer part. And they’re playing foosball as well. We seem to be having a party in 1978, an archaic time period when most of the people who downloaded this song weren’t even born yet.

We head back to the actual concert footage, which is mostly in black and white, so somebody was at least trying to be a little artistic. These guys really like doing the wailing chorus bit, which is fine. It’s the best part of the song, and if we’d all participated in the beer consumption in the previous scene, we’d be wailing as well. And maybe even hugging.

More jump cuts. Bar scenes with beer bottles, people getting in a snazzy red car, more startling intimacy, another shot of the people celebrating test results at the clinic. Or maybe they’re praying, not really sure. And now the snazzy car is racing around town, oblivious to things like traffic safety and slow-moving seniors who are just trying to get across the street so they can cash their Medicare checks before the Republicans gut the program. The producers of this video sure have a thing for speed and blurry lights and a disregard for having a clear life plan, so they also might want to take advantage of government benefits before they run dry and they have no way to pay off their student loans.

Jump cuts continue because, well, it’s a music video, and Moses decreed as he staggered off the mountain that jump cuts shall flourish among the unwashed and unfocused. We now have shots of the desert at night, some dude doing push-ups, and more intimacy with the vague couple who don’t really like each other but boredom often leads to poor decisions.

Whoa, now we have some guy taking a shower, didn’t see that coming. More speeding and blurriness and random nothingness. Close-up of a guitar being played, a brief nod to the fact that music is actually created by musicians and not supermodels who have more insurance coverage on their breasts than most people have on their homes. Then we have some guy in his bulging underwear, because who can pass up a shot like that? The image will be all over the Internet within seconds, with less-endowed people using it as their profile pic on skeezy dating sites where everybody lies because horniness makes you do stupid things.

This montage continues for a while. Blurring. Intimacy. People salting something that they probably can’t eat on their vegan diet. And we can see that the bored people in the darkened penthouse are still bored and we don’t know why they can’t just get up and go somewhere fun. Has somebody issued a restraining order that is forcing these folks to be in the same room even though they clearly don’t want to be? Hey, maybe this is the O.J. Simpson jury house. No wonder they came to the wrong verdict. There’s not enough light for them to actually see the evidence.

Finally, the music all dies down and the lead singer is emoting the final lines of the song. Love his interesting voice, but it sure looks like it is physically painful for him to sing these words, his face all scrunched-up and such, like Nellie Oleson on “Little House on the Prairie” when she and her horrid hair didn’t get her way. He seems to have some issues.

Maybe the lead singer should go back to that clinic where people get test results that make them happy. I’m sure somebody up in that grill can help. Or at least give him a hug. But he better hurry up and get there, before the Republicans stop the funding on any program that dares to help the common man instead of the rich white men who currently have a clammy throttle-hold on American society.

Why focus on politics in the end? Because so many people don’t.

Cheers.

 

Click here to watch this video on YouTube.

Originally published on 11/30/09, revised and updated with extra flair (and politics!) for this post.

 

The Banality of Exploding Pudding: Coldplay – “Christmas Lights”

coldplay-christmas-lights-2

  Preliminary Note: Just before watching this for the first time, I noticed a YouTube comment from somebody claiming “the fish eating the boat is the best part!”. What the hell? What am I getting into with this one?

We start out with the camera focused on an old phonograph, with somebody getting ready to play a record of Coldplay’s “Christmas Lights”. Okay, that’s what I’m wanting to hear, so that’s good. A mysterious hand gets things going, and we pan down to a strange piano that is playing by itself. Aside from the paranormal angle, we’re also distracted by the fact that all of the keys have been painted different colors, back in about 1918 and whoever painted them is now presumably dead. Hmmm. So far, I can’t really say that this is the most cheery Christmas video out there.

Camera moves away from the piano and we pan along the band members lying on their backs on an old wooden floor. (What, they’re too lazy to actually perform in this video? Was the mayo bad in the tuna salad? Has Gwyneth put them in time-out?) We finally get to lead singer Chris, and he starts singing while still laying there. I spy an “X” on one of the floorboards near his head, and I find myself much more interested in what might be under that floorboard than where the rest of this video is going. I need to focus.

Chris is singing really softly on this part of the song, and I’m straining to hear as he wimpily gives birth to the lyrics, so it’s kind of a relief when the camera pans away. Sadly, we’re back at the creepy piano that is being played by the Ghost of Christmas Past, or maybe his cousin, the Ghost of Videos Where You’re Not Sure What Is Going On. The camera pulls back, and we see that Chris is still on the floor, but the rest of the band is no longer there. (I didn’t receive a memo on where they might have gone. Not judging, but it’s entirely possible that a drug dog wandered into the scene and certain key players had a professional interest in not being sniffed.)

Suddenly, Chris levitates from the floor into a standing position. Oh? There is just something really wrong with this place. Chris isn’t bothered that his body was just transported against his will, and instead of questioning the levitation like a normal person he decides to start banging on that Piano of the Dead. The camera pans to somewhere else, and we see a nice, billowy red curtain, one that is hopefully not possessed. The curtain parts, because that’s one of the job functions of billowy curtains, and hey, there’s the rest of the band. They’re playing their little instruments on an old-timey stage. There are cut-out props shaped like buildings in the background, and for some reason I think of Istanbul. I’m probably supposed to think of something else, but I’m very confused.

The guys jam for a bit as the camera moves backwards so we can get a better gander at this new tableau, and we can see that there are some pretty Chinese lights strung across the stage. Okay, are we supposed to be thinking of Christmas around the world? Not sure. (Do they even do Christmas in China? Sure seems like something you would want to keep on the down-low or your ass might end up in jail.) The camera zooms back in from the cheap seats so we can watch the Istanbul props slide into the wings, and then we have more sliding, with a new set of props that apparently involve an ocean and a moon rising out of the water. It’s primitively pretty and all, but I’m starting to think maybe the set decorator might have had some focus issues. This is confirmed when, suddenly, three drunken Elvis impersonators zip by while playing violins.

Did anybody talk to Graceland about this?

The hyperactive camera pulls back again (did somebody miss a scheduled dose of anxiety meds?) so we can see that the band is still playing, but that wasn’t really necessary since we can hear them the whole time. Then we zoom in on Chris still banging on that piano, and he’s singing to somebody that must be in the balcony because he sure doesn’t want to look at us. (What did we do wrong? Bastard.) At the back of the stage, the Elvis clones zip by again, followed by one of Lisa Marie’s lawyers.

Oh wait, here’s that part with the boat getting eaten by a giant fish. Well, then. I can’t really say it was the most agreeable development in this video, what with all that carnage and violence, but I’ll agree that it was unexpected. Still, it makes me a little sad that the YouTube comment got more votes than anybody in the recent Presidential election. Nothing says “hope for humanity” quite like millions of people who would rather eat a tub of ice cream while watching Rednecks Say the Funniest Things instead of helping pick the next leader of their country.

Chris gets bored with the decaying but psychedelic piano and moves closer to his mates, allowing for a great photo-op, should anyone be interested in such a thing. Then the camera once again (just take your pill, dude) pulls back from the stage, rather far this time, so we can see that there’s a little marquee above the stage with the words “Credo Elvem Etiam Vivere”. I’m sure there are scholarly people who can interpret this slogan for us, but I’m going to assume it means some character from “The Lord of the Rings” is now living in Las Vegas and helping Santa deliver presents.

The camera retreats far enough that we can see buildings in the distance over the top of the theatre. One of them looks like the Capitol Building in America, but I’m going to assume that it’s not, since we’re dealing with British folk who would prefer that the Pilgrims had just stayed home and sucked it up like everybody else. The bi-polar camera zooms back in on the band, still doing their thing. Now we’ve got fake snow falling down, which is kind of pretty even though it’s clearly just scraps of shredded newspaper that some low-paid stagehand is being forced to hurl about, so the magic is a bit thin. But Chris is now sporting a carnation, and that makes everything better. If the scene isn’t working, bring in a floral motif and all is forgiven.

The fake newspaper bits fall for a while. Somebody was really invested in this part of the goings on. I wasn’t that person.

Then the camera pans way to the left, and we’re looking at what I’m guessing is the River Thames. There’s a triple-decker boat floating about, with tons of people on the top deck releasing balloons at just the right lyrical moment. Fireworks light up the sky, which isn’t really something we do in the Colonies during the Yuletide season, but it’s very festive and I suppose it’s nice that the Union of United Explosive Handlers, Local 707, might be getting some overtime pay.

Now we’re zooming back into the old-timey theatre, with the Elvis Pod People playing their violins with a passion and more pyrotechnics exploding from where the seats would be if there had been an actual audience. (Should I worry about what might have happened to the concert goers? Maybe not. Don’t ask, don’t tell, invoke the Fifth Amendment should there be a court hearing.) At this point, Chris is really invested in doing hand movements over his head, so we’ll assume that this part of the song is super important to him. (I’m still trying to figure out what Istanbul has to do with any of this.)

The curtain closes, the camera gives us another glimpse of the creepy piano, and then it pans over the top of the theatre so we can see the cityscape once again. More fireworks explode as the music fades and, presumably, Tiny Tim convinces Scrooge that world peace is possible as long as everyone has enough figgy pudding and people stop blaming others for their hesitance to take responsibility for what is happening in their own lives…

 

Click here to watch this video on YouTube.

Originally published on 12/12/10, revised and updated with extra flair for this post.