Friday, May 26, 2006

Az Yet - Hard to Say I'm Sorry (1997)

** (of four)

A year and a half ago, on a Royal Caribbean cruise, I spent an entire afternoon working up a standup comedy routine about the ship and perfected a wicked impression of the Norwegian captain for the night's "Adult Karaoke / Talent Show." Only to be told by the hefty Jamaican emcee lady that standup and particularly impressions of the captain "will earn ya a boot overboard wit' no life vest!" So what did I do? I grabbed my buddy and signed up for a karaoke duet of Az Yet's remake of "Hard to Say I'm Sorry." The bar was set mighty low that night - our duet got a standing ovation, mainly from retirees, and the rest of the week had strangers coming up to me saying, "You're that guy that did the karaoke."

During that week in late 2004, I was more famous than R+B boy group Az Yet themselves. Who, I think, are currently on the casino-tour circuit, which isn't half bad for a group that had one hit that was a Chicago cover song. Peter Cetera, himself not long for the casino circuit, contributed vocals to the recording but is nowhere to be seen in the video. Wise decision - BET wouldn't have touched this shit with a ten-foot pole if it had included a 50-year-old Cetera emoting into the camera with clenched fists.

Director Bille Woodruff, who's been around forever and was - I think - behind every single Toni Braxton video, pulls the strings here. There's lots of washed-out color from across the wheel, and when the Az Yet guys aren't chilling with their girlfriends or shown from above, singing into a weird, elongated five-way mic stand, they're standing in boxes and rolling around town in their pimped-out '97 white Hummer. Which matches their sleeveless sweater vests.

Sounds happy, right, but there's drama afoot. One of the guys - not the one who looks like a Mr. Potato Head version of Don Cheadle, not the Jon B-looking one with the Prince stubble, not Usher's drunk uncle - pisses off his woman, gets a drink tossed in his face and sulks straight through the bridge and third chorus. The key to winning her back? He rolls up in the Hummer while Don, Jon B., Usher's uncle and other guy look on, and he gives her a dalmation puppy he stole from the Sublime guys. The shit works, too. Peter Cetera would be proud.

P.S. I always wished this remake would segue, like the Chicago original, into a funked-out version of "Get Away." No such luck.


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