Saturday, August 06, 2005

Rihanna - Pon de Replay

RATING: **1/2 (of four)

As I mentioned three posts below, I've got the best technological setup of my life to date in terms of finding and acquiring new music as well as music videos. I started an account with the iTunes Music Store a couple weeks back and racked up more than a hundred bucks in download fees within the first 36 hours. I poked around the current charts and the celebrity playlists of a couple dozen A-, B- and C-list public figures and introduced myself to music new and old from across the spectrum.

And somehow the first song I purchased was "Pon de Replay" by Rihanna. I never deliberately listen to Top 40 radio anymore, so I'd never heard the song before. Now it seems like I'm hearing it like two times a day. I'll probably burn out quick - and, yeah, this is the kind of disposable novelty dance pop that'll leave Rihanna lumped in with Snap! and Ace of Base and Next in the annals of pop music history.

Right now, though, I like the song. The beat, vocals and constantly repeated, second-grade-reading-level hook ("Please Mr. DJ / Tell me if ya hear me / Turn the music up" - I mean, that doesn't even fucking rhyme!) all just kind of align into a perfect summer dance single.

You can tell Def Jam didn't want to waste a whole lot of money on the video. You know, just in case it wasn't an immediate surefire hit. Or maybe the song became an unexpected hit and they had to rush a video out. I should do my homework in this kind of situation, but come on - it's my second night back.

In any event, there's not much to the video. On a fairly constricted black soundstage, director X* creates a makeshift dance party, complete with Rihannon (wearing next to nothing and looking pretty goddamn hot) singing from a platform in the midst of it all, a DJ up in his booth, spinning light machines and some kind of weird white cubbyhole alcove no one ever decides to go into.

Shelf life will be short on this one, guaranteed. But while it lasts, this is just the kind of brainless July/August fun we can use when partying, working out, driving, etc. Catchy, catchy, catchy.

BEST SEQUENCE: Walking into the club with her friends, Rihannon is informed that the party has no energy because "the music is low." Rihannon looks into the camera and declares, showing off a sexy Caribbean accent, "I'll make him turn it up." Ten seconds later, Rihannon is twirling in the center of the dance floor, all by herself, and catching the DJ's eye, she jerks her finger up twice in the universal language for "turn up the fucking volume." The DJ, who looks stoned as all hell, nods and reaches down to his soundboard. The music in the video, however, remains at the same volume. Which might be why she spends the rest of the video singing the line, "turn the music up."

* = When reviewing videos where I don't have the director's name handy, I always just write down "X" and plug in the information later. But in this case, the director of the video's name actually is X. Kinda funny, in a dry, inside-joke sort of way.

Bloodhound Gang - Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo

**1/2 (of four)

We all remember the Bloodhound Gang from their hornball new wave-sounding novelty hit "The Bad Touch," which featured the memorable refrain, "You and me baby ain't nothing but mammals / So let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel." Back then I had a friend who was an obsessive fan of the group and claimed "The Bad Touch" was a sellout song not representative of their work as a whole, and that within a few years the band would be huge based on the strength of their musical canon. I wonder what she thinks of the video for "Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo," which makes "The Bad Touch" look quite subtle by comparison.

Again, we're subjected to watered-down new wave, but this time it's a little closer to the uptempo pop side of Blur. The topic, however, remains the same. If you hadn't noticed the song's title forms the acronym F-U-C-K, which about says it all. The four words, "Foxtrot," "Uniform," "Charlie" and "Kilo," as I just learned from poking around the Internet, come from the International Radio Operators' Alphabet. Let no one say the Bloodhound Gang aren't well-versed in other aspects of the media besides synthesizers and lyrics like "Pressure wash the quiver bone in the bitch wrinkle." All the lines in the verses are variations of the same, some oddball form of "stick your penis in her vagina." And a few of them are pretty damn funny.

This isn't high quality entertainment by any means, but the video and song have an appeal that's difficult to resist. While the band plays from inside a highway tunnel, "Jackass" alum Bam Margera drives a giant banana car around. (The banana is half-peeled, which is symbolic for arousal, circumcision or both - I'll leave the ultimate interpretation up to you.) It doesn't take Encyclopedia Brown to realize the banana car will eventually penetrate the tunnel, but along the way we're treated to a series of amusing and just plain gutter-trash shots, including the sexiest woman I've ever seen wield a jackhammer (if you're curious, I've seen a few) and lead singer Jimmy Pop sticking his tongue up his right nostril.

I'm not as up on videos as I used to be, but according to a debate thread on the link site, the video for "Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo" is rife with plagiarism. The victim? A Benny Benassi video called "Satisfaction," directed by Dougal Wilson. Poster Benroll claims the "F-U-C-K" ripoff is identical "right down to styling, art direction, slo-mo, choice of power tools... the lot." While similarities between videos are unavoidable, there's coincidence and there's thievery, and knowing the Bloodhound Gang stole a lot of what I just watched only seems more fitting for this kind of material.