Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

POP MUSIC | SOUND & VISION

Down to Serious Business

July 21, 1996|Lorraine Ali | Lorraine Ali writes about pop music for Calendar

In this edition of Sound & Vision, where we rate videos on a scale of 0 to 100, the top contenders take a serious turn away from the usual vacuous fare and tackle controversial subjects.

Me'Shell Ndegeocello's heartbreaking "Leviticus: Faggot" depicts the story of a gay teenager ostracized by his parents, Magnapop's "Open the Door" focuses on friends who'd rather leave this world than cope with it, and Extra Fancy's gay-centric adaptation of the old blues tune "Sinnerman" takes a satirical jab at the religious right's antipathy to homosexuality.

It's not as if heavy subject matter hasn't been approached before in music videos, but it's mainly been through broken, enigmatic imagery or elusive symbolism to pad the jarring or risky sentiments of the song. In these current videos, the subjects are explored with fairly straightforward imagery and story lines that leave little room for guessing. Far from PC prattle, these well executed videos force viewers to think.

*

Me'Shell Ndegeocello, "Leviticus: Faggot." A baby-faced teenager incurs the wrath of his father, who, upon discovering that the boy is gay, throws his son's clothes out on the front lawn while mom looks on, pathetically powerless. The teen takes to the streets, where his parents still attempt to "save" him by dragging him back to church, but he ends the pain by slitting his wrists in a cheap, AstroTurfed bathroom. Falling on the floor, he becomes Ndegeocello, who rises up and leaves the room with some dignity. This video is beautifully shot and the performers' expressions convey the gamut of emotions, from love to disgrace to remorse. While maybe too tragic for easy viewing, this is one of the year's best videos. 97

*

Beck, "Where It's At." Beck throws together a billion unrelated visual fragments and makes them run together as seamlessly as a sheet of toffee. He also becomes a succession of characters--from a roadside cleanup crew worker to a hook-handed vagabond to a cut-rate rapper playing a mini-mall opening. The video works in perfect sync with the song and packs enough disparate images to give it a long shelf life. It closes in a honky-tonk bar, where ultra-serious line dancers cut the rug to this hip-hop song, demonstrating that Beck's weirdness is all-reaching. 95

*

Magnapop, "Open the Door." This sweet-sounding song has lyrics that hit harder than a sledgehammer, and its graceful yet disturbing video is a fitting accompaniment. As Linda Hopper sings of friends dying, images of illness and self-destruction--from intravenous drug use to street life to suicide--are juxtaposed with scenes of people dancing under a disco ball. The gauzy effects and deep-hued colors are often stunning, but they hardly romanticize the hard-core scenes here. Instead, the video works at exposing the defeat and resignation that encapsulates part of a generation, be it through a self-imposed death wish or the onslaught of AIDS. 85

*

Extra Fancy, "Sinnerman." Tattooed and muscled singer Brian Grillo catches the eye of a soapbox preacher (Alexis Arquette), who follows the singer through the streets of gay Los Angeles. Bible in hand, he spies on Grillo flirting and making out with other men, eventually ending up behind closed doors with the singer. The video is amateurish and low-budget, withtoo many fuzzy performance segments. But that is balanced by the kind of homoerotic scenes that until now have been largely taboo in the world of rock. This video gets points just for breaking the ice. 78

*

De La Soul, "Stakes Is High." This seminal rap group's video starts out promising, with the trio appearing as guests on "The Maury Povich Show," with the host asking, "Does rap dictate real life, or real life dictate rap?" It then lapses into shots of De La Soul doing less than sensational things--the dishes, the laundry, mowing the lawn. But the performance spots are long and uneventful, diluting the initial point--even rappers have to clean their rooms in between dangerous escapades--that the video set out to make. 55

*

Hole, "Gold Dust Woman." Courtney Love performs a Stevie Nicks song while wearing a billowing blue dress that eventually mutates into a confining tower. Other pointless shots show Love dancing with bassist Melissa Auf der Maur. Overall, this performance video is surprisingly dull for a band whose personality is as infamous as its music. 49

*

Ozzy Osbourne, "I Just Want You." Osbourne has always been a surprisingly good bet for videos ("No More Tears" and "Perry Mason" made fine viewing), but there's always the exception. This video is filled with stock, spooky images of graveyards, somber children and a kohl-eyed Ozzy. These leftover "Elvira" props are too generic for the king of gargantuan gloom. 30

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|