“Liberian Girl” is a single from Michael Jackson’s album Bad. It’s an alright song, some would describe it as filler material, but it’s catchy and has a cool, sexy vibe to it. He made a music video for it because of course he did. The video’s premise is kind of meta. It’s about a bunch of eighties celebrities meeting on a soundstage to film the music video for “Liberian Girl.” It’s a virtual Who’s Who of eighties entertainment. It’s kind of funny to watch it now and try to name all the celebrities. Some of them are still famous and some of them are pretty obscure. Are they still famous if nobody remembers them? Anyway, so all the celebrities are talking amongst each other while wondering where Michael is and what the video is going to be about, all the while the song is playing in the background almost unnoticed. You keep waiting for the music video to actually start, and then Michael Jackson is revealed to have been filming them all along, and that’s how the music video ends. It’s one of his most unique videos. He’s not really in it, there’s no dance choreography, and the song is not really the main focus. I included the video below. Watch it. Try to guess all the celebrities. Turn it into a drinking game.
Eddie Murphy has had a pretty successful comedy and acting career. You might also recall that he tried to use his popularity to launch a musical career. He collaborated with Rick James on the single “Party All the Time.” That was actually a decent song. But success went to Eddie Murphy’s head and he continued unleashing terrible music upon the world, like when he collaborated with Michael Jackson for a little ditty called “Whatzupwitu.” It’s bad song with an awful accompanying music video. Eddie and Michael walk around a green-screened sky while they are bombarded by poorly animated music notes, flowers, and peace signs. It seems like there was script for filming. The director just told them to dance around awkwardly with each other and reassured them that they will fix everything in postproduction. They didn’t. The end result speaks for itself. You can watch it below. And I’m sorry if the song gets stuck in your head, I promise that wasn’t my intention.
OK Go is an American alternative rock band known for their catchy songs and awesome music videos. Their music videos are what really set them apart, gaining popularity not just on MTV but on YouTube especially. They released a few music videos online but they really blew up with the video for “Here It Goes Again” in which they performed a tightly choreographed dance on treadmills. They released a few other awesome videos incorporating everything from stop motion to trained dogs to elaborate Rube Goldberg machines. Their new video for “I Won’t Let You Down” might just be their most creative video yet. I’ve watched a few times and still can’t figure out how they did it. It’s starts out simple and gets bigger and bigger and bigger until you can’t comprehend the complexity of it all. It seems like it’s done all in one take but there’s no way in Hell that anyone could do that. There has to be green screens and CG and advanced robots involved. I don’t even know how they came up with the idea for the video. Words can’t describe it. You just have to watch it.
PSY is the South Korean K-pop powerhouse that brought you “Gangnam Style” and “Gentleman”. He’s got a new YouTube music video out now called “Hangover” and it’s pretty terrible. It’s really terrible in fact. This song is a hangover. It makes you sick. It makes you nauseous. It makes you regret everything that you did that’s lead up to this point. It has an awful beat, lazy auto-tuning, and a bored Snoop Dogg mumbling his way through horrible lyrics. Snoop Dogg (or is still Snoop Lion?) spends a lot of time talking about smoking weed for a song that’s supposed to about a hangover. And how do South Koreans feel about weed anyway? Do they even smoke it over there? The video is mostly PSY and Snoop running around drinking and causing trouble wherever they go. They seem to be attempting to pull off the chemistry between Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in Rush Hour, but it’s way too forced. It’s a bad song, it’s a bad video, and it’s time to say goodbye to PSY. His fifteen minutes of fame are up and he’s no longer relevant. I don’t want to hear from him again unless he’s doing a duet with William Hung and covering “Chocolate Rain.” Avoid watching this video if you can.
Johnny Cash is a music and cultural icon, and one of his best songs came in the twilight of his career when he covered Trent Reznor’s “Hurt”. Trent Reznor wrote the song and recorded it with Nine Inch Nails in 1994, but Johnny Cash made it his own when he released his version in 2002. The accompanying 2003 music video can only be described as haunting. It’s a juxtaposition of an old and frail Cash mixed with clips of him in his prime. It shows how the passage of time affects us all, even legends like Johnny Cash. He was seventy-one years old when they made it and MTV still played it in heavy rotation. MTV’s target audience is teenagers and twenty-somethings, so that just shows how amazing the video is. It’s powerful. It’s universal. It’s impossible not to like it, even if you’re not a fan of country music or old people.
Michael Jackson is the King of Pop and the Master of Music Videos. Or rather he was. He’s dead now. Everyone has their own favorite Michael Jackson video. Boring and cliché people are partial to Thriller. A lot of people like Bad, Beat it, and Billie Jean. Those are all great videos, but Smooth Criminal is the best Michael Jackson video. It’s a great song and he showcases some of his best dance moves including the moonwalk and the anti-gravity lean. I wonder how many wannabes broke their nose trying to do the lean. I’m guessing it was a lot. Smooth Criminal is not just a music video, it’s short film. And it has almost all the iconic Michael Jackson trademarks: he’s rocking a fedora, a slick suit with an armband, tape on his fingertips, he’s pretending to be tough and feigning street cred, there are strangers doing a spontaneous yet perfectly choreographed dance, a couple of little kids running around well past their bedtime… the only things missing are the glove and his hair on fire.
Smooth Criminal is a very stylized video (it’s actually the centerpiece of his film Moonwalker). MJ enters a 1930’s nightclub filled with gangsters and he’s somehow tougher than all of them. He sings and dances and prances around. He beats up some dudes, and he even shoots and kills another guy, sending him flying backwards through a brick wall. At one point the music cuts out and everyone starts moving in slow motion with a blue tinge. Michael does a little howling and finger snapping and bobs his head ferociously. A cat walks on a piano for some reason, the ladies start moaning, and everything slows down before the song explodes back into existence. It’s impossible to watch this video and not try to emulate his moves. Don’t even try to dance like Michael Jackson; you won’t be able to pull it off. Michael Jackson is the only guy who looks cool doing Michael Jackson moves. Everyone else looks like Corey Feldman during his MJ obsession.