Friday, January 27, 2006

Nelly featuring Paul Wall, Ali and Big Gipp - Grillz (2005)

*1/2 (of four)

A gold tooth is no longer sufficient for proving economic status and overall down-ness. Nope, my hometown Lou chum Nelly - we used to eat toasted ravioli at the top of the Arch together and gaze down at the Mississippi River as pre-adolescents - has upped the ante with this ode to jewelry in one's mouth.

A "grill" no longer refers to a person's face, or the heated substance most aspiring hip-hoppers flip burgers on, or an accessory at the front of one's car. Rather, it's an entire row of interconnected diamonds, rubies and sapphires in the shape of teeth, inserted atop molars, bicuspids and incisors.

Nelly, St. Lunatic Ali, Big Gipp, honky rapper Paul Wall, producer Jermaine Dupri and a handful of rented hottie models all sport grillz in this video from director Fat Cats. Who favors very tight closeups of these open mouths.

I have to wonder if the video shoot was catered, because I swear I spotted six to eight cole slaw shreds hanging from Paul Wall's lower grill. Also, if the shots of the video models' fake teeth are any indication, an influx of rapper semen apparently turns a gold grill a grossly tarnished shade of green.

The white-letterboxed video is shot entirely in a huge house, or maybe a remodeled dentists' office. Blue and red tints accompany the endless shots of oral jewelry, and what's not completely generic is unintentionally funny. The lyrics are even all about grillz, which gets old awfully fast.


10. PAUL WALL: I got my mouth lookin somethin' like a disco ball
9. NELLY: It look like Now-N-Laters, gum drops, jelly beans
8. PAUL WALL: My teeth gleaming like I'm chewin' on aluminum foil
7. BIG GIPP: Mouth got colors like a Fruit Loop box
6. PAUL WALL: I put my money where my mouth is and bought a grill
5. ALI: And da otha set is same, got my name in da mold
4. PAUL WALL: Call me George Foreman, 'cause I'm sellin' everybody grillz.
3. NELLY: If I could call it a drink, call it a smile on da rocks
2. PAUL WALL: Open up my mouth and you see mo' karots than a salad
1. ALI: Gotta bill in my mouth like I'm Hillary Rodham

Tom Petty - It's Good To Be King (1995)

*** (of four)

Petty, without the Heartbreakers, put out one of his best on the Wildflowers album. Sure there was the stoner mega-hit "You Don't Know How It Feels" and the inane fan favorite "You Wreck Me," but for my money the album's best track was "It's Good To Be King." Which is, as you'd expect from Petty, a simplistic mid-tempo rock tune that also smacks of blues and pure sing-along pop.

The video is an odd amalgam of elaborate sets and bizarre extras, several dozen representing every culture. Director Peter Care's idea of ordinary people fantasizing about being king includes a lot of ornate costumes and unconventional headgear. Among them, tribal headdresses, a gas mask, a birdcage and actual crowns.

There are a lot of vignettes that are either poignant or make no sense at all, depending on who you ask and in what mindstate you currently reside. I just sit back and enjoy them, from the old lady playing a Mellotron on a set of train tracks to the wedding of Charlie Murphy to to the homeless man wandering around the trailer park and eventually the shore of a body of water, where he finds a child's wagon buried knee-deep.

I'm just glad I got to hear Petty do a ten-minute version of "King" in concert a few summers ago while relaxing outside in beautiful weather and basking in a healthy THC and alcohol buzz. Tom Petty doesn't come through my town enough, with or without the Heartbreakers.

George Michael - Father Figure (1988)


It's a gay '80s ballad that's been Muzaked to death in the almost two decades since its release, but I'll go to bat for "Father Figure." George Michael could write good music, sing good music and produce good music. Most of the time, he was in so-bubblegum-ya-wanna-smack-him mode, but occasionally he'd send a catchy but undeniably adult ballad to the top of the charts. This is a prime example.

Granted, the video can be a little tough to swallow (pun sort of intended). You've got to view its meandering film noirish take on High Fashion Meets The Gritty City as heavy-handed kitsch, but the director - whoever he is - sneaks in a lot of solid shots that still hold up. You could yank a hundred or more still frames from "Father Figure" and use them in a coffee table book today.

George is a rough, jean-jacketed cabbie with exactly four days of stubble on his face. Not three, not five. He's a stalker of supermodels with a photographic wall of fame on his wall directly above the bed's headboard. And he picks up a fare that changes his world - she's a model, yes, and she does her little turn on the catwalk. On the catwalk. Yeah, on the catwalk. She shakes her little tush on the catwalk.

She also, in certain shots, has some hard, hard lines on her face. Kinda looks like a dude with a lot of makeup on. But she's all woman, we find out in the scene in George's bedroom where the model is backed to the wall in her lingerie, enjoying a vicious makeout session with cabbie G.M. They spend the night together, she gets distressed the next morning and can't pose right for the photographer. Who grabs his forehead with both hands in universal mime for Very Displeased.

Hang in there until the bitter end and you'll hear my favorite George Michael ad-lib of all time: "I'll be your daddy, OHHH!!" It's a classic.