Saturday, July 19, 2008

Cartoon Blood

Here at Neon Hustle, we like music. We also like television. Living back in a house with the latter, I bring you the following exploration of that once bold attempt to join the two media. But this ain't yo' momma's MTV. No, this is FNMTV: A liveblog on cartoon blood, one man's immovable hair, and the ethical-cum-aesthetic low point of summer songs.

0:04 - I forgot that Pete Wentz hosts this show. He's wearing a sleeveless hoodie and just introduced a ten second clip of LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out." This is already seeming like a very bad idea.

0:05 - They're running a clip wherein LL Cool J is talking about going to the market as a kid. "I can't work the register, ma!" The message for today's youth: Work might be good for some people, but not if you want to be a star. He's bagging groceries now as a photo op and asking where to put things. If he were a candidate, his questions would be the equivalent of Kerry asking for Swiss on a Philly Cheesesteak. We'll accept elitism from our celebrities, but not from our leaders.

0:09 - Run DMC "Rock Box" Clip. LL Cool J is talking about how rap was blowing up at the time of this clip and how he was partying with Russel Simmons and Madonna when it came out. "Rock Box" was released in 1984. LL Cool J released Radio in 1985.

0:10 - The crowd is cheering for a clip of Pete Wentz stuffing his face with spaghetti in an homage to "Doin' It." So far my enjoyment of this show is directly correlated to the dude's screen time.

0:11 - Video Premiere! It's hard to say what the most distracting part of this experience is: there's the video effect that makes me feel like I'm constantly engaging hyperdrive and the "your baby" being looped through the chorus. The worst is probably the crowd noise randomly piped in during the track. Having come of age in the midst of TRL, I keep thinking the producers are about to cut to the studio. No such luck.

0:15 - They've got a skybox? Tim Kash, the British accented VJ, sits with The Game and James Montgomery, a "music journalist" who resembles Craig Finn, sans 20 years and 60 pounds. And Montgomery just dissed the track! "I didn't see that drive there, I want to see the hunger from the kid who wanted to get out of the supermarket." While it sounds disturbingly like commentary on a basketall halftime show, he's got a point. The crowd booed, and the VJ advised him to watch his back. They're about to cut to commercials, a phrase I use loosely since they just spent thirty seconds talking about how you could use Verizon to be a better MTV consumer, but not before letting us know that She & Him will be coming up soon. Did you know Zooey Deschanel is an actress!

00:20 - Last week, Rihanna played with Maroon 5. Apparently she has a song other than "Umbrella" and justice still hasn't been served on their career.

00:21 - "You may know her from a movie called "Almost Famous." And he is almost famous. Please welcome She & Him." I wonder if Wentz writes his own material. Oh, he's asking her about the actress/singer transition, and him about getting involved with someone making the actress/singer transition... He probably does. Next question is an homage to Almost Famous because, get this, she was in that movie! "Is there a record that did set you free, or that is so influential to you?" If you were wondering, she said Revolver.

The video is unbelievably, adorably, and wonderfully twee. Which makes it all the better when they turn to The Game for the first word: "I just like all the cartoon blood. I figured out a way to get blood into my videos without MTV blurring it out, ya gotta make it cartoon." Montgomery makes the Scar-Jo comparisons and then the VJ continues sucking up to The Game. The dude's got a Dodgers tattoo on right cheek, clearly way cooler than the journo.

It's worth saying that, even beyond the catchy single, great video, and adorable singer/actress, the She & Him record really is quite good. The songwriting is strong, and it's a refreshing throwback in sound and sensibility. Her voice, while far from perfect, is strong when it needs to be and vulnerable in just the way that her songs ask. It's a shame that she's unable to escape the actress narrative, when the more apt comparisons may be to 1920's revivalists The Ditty Bops or still-learing-the-vocals Kaki King.

0:31 - Dark Knight Returns clip instead of immediately bringing out Daughtry. I'm really quite ok with this. Though the clip isn't all that interesting. Heath Ledger shoots some guns and Batman stoically rams a garbage truck. Wentz: "I want to see the Game driving the Batmobile." Ok, the sucking up to the Game is getting a bit much.

0:33 - Fuck, they're rolling the Daughtry clip. The phrase "American Idol" isn't mentioned, but the blue-collar family man makes good is laid on thicker than Pete Wentz's product. Seriously, I don't think I've seen his hair move - it's like Trump Hair or something.

0:35 - Watching Pete Wentz's hair for movement is more interesting than this interview. Daughtry observes: "We can say anything and [the crowd would] be all, "WOOO!"" He's painfully right.

00:39 - Blurring the line between the show and the advertisements. Pete Wentz drives a smart car to go pick up The Game and his entourage. They kick him out, and two guys sit on the gate of the trunk as they drive into the distance. Wentz forlornly asks a local for directions. If this is an ad, it sucks as much as the Daughtry clip. Pete Wentz just claimed Ryan Seacrest as a friend. I don't think Ryan Seacrest would admit to having Ryan Seacrest as a friend.

0:42 - This is the first time I've consciously listened to Daughtry and I'm really wishing I hadn't. This band seems to combine the self-satisfied, over-the-top vocals of Creed with the rhythm section from Nickelback. Their guitar and piano parts fall between the aforementioned and Aerosmith.

Is it wrong to hate on a band while they run a video publicizing the charity work of underappreciated groups and people from across the world? While it's been done before, there are a laundry list of groups that people might never have heard of were it not for this video. Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty Internaional, Urban Compass, Insight Prison Project, Seacology, Surfaid, Room to Read, Homeboy Industries, Keep a Child A Live...

0:49 - I'd keep listing, but the commercial break is over and Katy Perry is on talking about what might be the song of the summer, "I Kissed a Girl." Hilights of the clip, which cuts between shots of her face (cleavage and up) and her hands... on her legs.

"Girls are very girly, we have summer parties and we have choreographed dance moves in pajamas... It's kind of about that. It's like kissing your arm sometimes. We smell very good. We smell like vanilla, watermelons, strawberries. [...] Not trying to be a role model or a posterchild for anything because I'm in the business of rock and roll. I'm in the business of rock and roll... I came here to inspire people to listen to pop music again."

This is one of the worst hit songs ever. There are some that are unlistenable but inexplicably turn to pop culture earworm ("Pop" by N*Sync). There are others that are just plain bad, in the "He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)" way. I'll defer on the latter to the posters and commenters at Feministe:
In popular culture, kissing a woman is only permissible and sanctioned if a woman is already an avowed heterosexual. [...] The icing on the cake comes from Perry’s own objectification of a female subject: “Just wanna try you on / I’m curious for you” and “No, I don’t even know your name / It doesn’t matter / You’re my experimental game / Just human nature”. Now we’re free to dehumanize and sexualize each other into pieces of meat to be sampled, instead of waiting around for a man to do it! [...] This attitude underscores an aggressive masculinity that runs through the song, its beat, and Perry’s singing: “and I liked it” is sung with such defiance. It poses as third-wave feminism with a “girly” but loud-and-proud protagonist, but is really just good, old-fashioned woman-using.

Back to the point, Perry's song is abysmal. It rides its sing-along chorus as far as it will go, but has little else but a story written in lyrics that don't quite scan over a marching electro-drum beat. For someone who claims to be in the business of rock and roll, she doesn't have much faith in the holy trinity of bass, drums, and guitar.

As the show draws to a close, Perry is showered in balloons.

In watching an hour of television, I saw three music videos and one live performance. If I'd gotten to hear The Game's thoughts on Katy Perry, it might have almost been worth it.


Hava said...

The Katy Perry comments= spot on.

"I Kissed a Girl" is the Tila Tequila of pop songs. Blech.

Brendan K. said...

My God, D, welcome back indeed. Top notch. I JUST heard this Katie Perry song the other day as I was hanging around waiting for a band to play, and my first and only comment are:

1) Didn't Jill Sobule do this a over a decade ago? Remember her? She also had that song in "Clueless?" Anyone?


2) How come the straight chick gay-ed up the bi-sexual girl's song with a "Killers-hit-the-clubs" production? Does this make it credible more gay? Not that it matters, as the song flat-out sucks.


3) You know how I know it sucks? It turns out that even Darryl can't like it.

Darryl said...

Except Jill Sobule's song wasn't degrading and worthless. There's an honesty and empathy to it that Perry totally misses with this song. The production note is an interesting one, and I think even if it's not an attempt to "gay it up" it's an attempt to "club it up" - to put it firmly in the drunken revelry of a night out, and not anything emotionally worthwhile or relevant, even though the subject matter might be just that to a significant portion of the population.

As regards #3, I think I've gotten back to the point where I can hate on things. I think Weezer made me do it.

jeff said...

Cartoon series are so much famous among kids. My children always hooked up with television to Watch Pokemon TV Show. This is really entertaining sitcom and enjoyable too.