Sunday, February 19, 2006

DMC featuring Sarah McLachlan - Just Like Me (2005)

** (of four)

There’s something innately hilarious about this pairing - Daryl “DMC” McDaniels of Run DMC crash lands in VH1ville with a rap song featuring Sarah McLachlan singing the chorus to “Cats in the Cradle,” the Harry Chapin wimp radio classic famously covered in my high school days by Ugly Kid Joe. Some pedigree.

And it’s impossible to make fun of, too, because “Just Like Me” is an ode to the trials and joys and identity crises of adoption. I guess it makes sense, though. This DMC song sprung from the loins of two white parents - Chapin and McLachlan. Adoption is the only explanation.

Add in some generic Rick Rubin-esque hard rock guitar chords and DMC’s “whoo!” cries during the chorus, and this never stands a chance of cracking even B-level. A lot of DMC’s prose and delivery is clunky, too, but you can’t deny the sheer amount of emotion behind the project. DMC didn’t find out he was adopted until right after the Jam Master Jay shooting, so this is a relatively fresh compound wound.

The video is nothing special - we see the 1964 flashback scene of DMC being born in the hospital, present self watching his newborn self get snatched from the arms of a teenage mother. There’s a sparse, heaven-looking white set, an empty performance theater set and a long orphanage bedroom with a stained-glass backdrop.

McLachlan wanders the entire thing looking like a drugged-up earth mother. Eventually, there’s a lineup of kids singing along, and the closing shot has DMC singing with his own son - who’s dressed like the 1986 incarnation of his dad. Cheeseball, but worth a glance.

Madonna - Sorry (2006)

** (of four)

Madonna and a trio of racially diverse friends 26 years her junior - one of them carrying a giant boombox over her shoulder - meet up with a big mama who's driving a big white panel van. Climb in, party amongst the purple neon and spend the next few minutes removing clothing*, driving around town and tossing unsuspecting (but, I'm sure, incredibly grateful) guys into the van with them.

There's room for all, because Madonna's big white panel van has the Snoopy's Doghouse option package. The thought of discriminating on looks is apparently irrelevant - before too long a Napoleon Dynamite clone gets hauled aboard to do his spazz dance and a giant slob in a cabbie hat gets his bare belly tickled by Maddy's girls. Madonna doesn't care about age, either. There's a little kid in the van and a couple guys who were actually born within ten years of her.

Beware the wank-happy subplot involving a trio of male models with shirts pulled back around their necks who want a piece of Madonna and her posse of Gulf War babies. Not in a sexual way, either (trust me); the guys just want to kick the girls' asses in a gender-war dance contest. Which occurs in a steel cage toward the end of the video. Masturbators everywhere will be ecstatic to learn that Madonna can still put her legs behind her head, although this move instantly turns her bones to dust and causes the on-set paramedics to scamble to the scene.

* = Most of the dancers show off midriff and maybe a little more, but Madonna has pooped out enough kids that she's finally crossed over into one-piece territory. Lots of leotards and corsets and silver suit jackets.

HiM - Wings of a Butterfly (2005)

*** (of four)

The band HiM comes across a lot better in a spooky music video than it does onstage, where the antics of the guitarist (whose dreadlocks swallow his upper body whole) and the heavily tattooed frontman (who resembles an unholy genetic trinity of John Mellencamp, Adam Ant and Billie Joe Armstrong) are not to be taken seriously for a second. His Infernal Majesty is all gothed out and Satan-friendly, but how badass can you be when your breakthrough song is about butterfly wings? Even if it is about ripping off those wings.

No, "Wings" is more pop than anything, and it's a wildly catchy pop song at that. The uncredited sixth member of the band? The omnipresent HiM logo, which is projected from the top of a skyscraper, Batsignal-style, and on the back wall of the big empty building the band is lip synching in. It's even embedded in someone's retina during an extreme closeup and hangs like a Public Enemy wall clock around the neck of one of the band members.

Now you're wondering what this logo looks like. Try a pentagram with Mickey Mouse ears on top - it's hard to imagine which party this association would offend more, Michael Eisner and the Disney Corp. or the Devil himself. (SATAN: I know I've dealt humanity some low blows, but come on - Bambi 2?! Who gets shot this time, Bambi's baby brother? Do they roast Thumper on a rotating spit? Christ, how derivative.)

The outdoor sequences in this Meiert Avis video - mostly of grainy, dark-blue-tinted swirling shots of the band logo being projected out into the night sky - are more convincing than the indoor scenes, which have the guys in the band performing into odd apparati that look like press conference microphones merged with unusual dentist chair accessories. There are also a lot of giant perpendicular magnifying lenses. You'll have to see the video to know what I'm talking about.

Just set your DVR for the "T-Minus Hits" show on MTV2 - "Wings of a Butterfly" is currently perched at a robust #6 on the countdown, between Kanye West and Busta Rhymes. And, sorry Infernal Majesty guys, I know you sacrificed a lot of virgin goats to the Dark Lord to get this sound, but I swear this song is the '00 decade's "Counting Blue Cars." Which was a soft-ass pop song about telling all your thoughts to a female God. The whole thing's come full circle, and Bambi's little bro just got shot in the head.

Black Eyed Peas featuring Q-Tip, Talib Kweli, Cee-Lo and John Legend - It's Like That (2006)

**1/2 (of four)

The Black Eyed Peas have gone blander than the actual peas in a Weight Watchers TV dinner, thanks to their TRL-happy frontwoman Fergie. But it's hard not to support the hip-hop collective in "It's Like That" - the BEP guys have procured three of the thinking man's greats (Tip, Kweli and Cee-Lo) and returned, here at least, to their pre-Ferg routine of just spitting flows off each other to an appealing beat. "It's Like That" comes closer to resembling the spirit of the Peas' first two albums than any of the act's recent singles.

Only problem is, this whole affair seems like an all-star Sprite commercial. The clip-art computer animation backdrops swirl, slide, pan and flip with the rapper's bodies stashed throughout the frames. Lots of animated, pulsing speakers, reprinted lyrics and, at least three times, a huge Black Eyed Peas logo. Just so we don't forget whose video this is. Also, if you have the super-expanded-basic cable package, you might be thrown off by the video's abstractly painted city buildings in reds and browns look like the between-videos promos you see on the MTV Jams and VH1 Soul channels.

Q-Tip's verse basically advertises the Peas and hip-hop in general, and Cee-Lo never gets to do more than sing along with one chorus (Legend gets the other) and clutch his toy-breed dog while wearing a pink suit coat and matching tie. But every BEP member's verse is a good one, and Talib's tops them all. Unnecessary after all this self-promotion, though - the closing "X is in the house, Y's in the house, my man Z is in the house," name checking of everyone involved in the project and several others who aren't there. Come on, guys, save that shit for the liner notes. We don't need a roll call of all your friends.