Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Panic! At the Disco - I Write Sins, Not Tragedies (2006)

*** (of four)

This is the kind of thing I normally make fun of hardcore - pop-punk with goth-synth pretensions, in a video where everyone's dressed in clown makeup. I don't mean raccoon eyeshadow, I mean full-fledged circus greasepaint. But there's something about this Panic! At the Disco tune that gets me, if just because I've been waiting for a pop song to stick the word "goddamn" in the chorus.

The scene? A wedding. One family's side is empty, the other is wearing sad-mime makeup. The ceremony is proceeding normally when the lead singer - who looks like Ashton Kutcher as a lipstick and mascara-wearing circus ringmaster - reaches the song's chorus and more circus people burst through the "---damn door." This startles the o.g. mime-clowns, and the preacher doesn't know what the hell to do. This is worse than when the best man loses the rings.

Only the beginning, I'm afraid - some kind of biker strongman, chap-wearing Freddie Mercury blows (oh, he blows alright) his angel dust on the attendees. He has a magic wand, too, and he starts siccing it on random people. Instead of all hell breaking loose, everyone starts ballroom dancing. Someone plays an accordion. The bride cries and storms out. She'll be kissing one of the makeup mimes in a minute, to the groom's severe chagrin.

It all reads pretty ludicrous on paper, and it's all over in three minutes, but "I Write Sins" - the song and video (courtesy of director Shane C. Drake) - has an irresistible quality. Rarely has tragedy at the altar been this mesmerizing, demented and out-and-out goofy.

Fort Minor featuring Holly Brook - Where'd You Go (2006)

** (of four)

During the two-minute intro to this video, which is of the, "I'm an American soldier, I signed up for the financial security and job training and now - whoops! - I'm stuck in Iraq fighting a corporate war," variety, I searched the Internet for the lyrics to "Where'd You Go." Which are of the, "You're my man, now you're gone, I wait around for you to call, when you do I have nothing to say," variety. And which I expected to hear from the mouth of a soulful black woman. Imagine my surprise when those lyrics sprang forth from the mouth of a big-eared white-boy rapper.

Watch the entire video, and you'll discover Fort Minor is a side project of Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park. Who has elevated adolescent whininess to an artform. The "personal" note at the end of the video thanks the three families who allowed their deep, empty loneliness to be exploited on MTV. There are the parents of the Iraqi soldier, there's an only child who is the "man of the house" now that Daddy's gone and spends all his time cleaning and wishing for a twin brother, and there's the wife of a baseball pitcher who loves the offseason and hates spring and summer.

All the while, Shinoda's walking through all their houses, rapping about how inadequate he feels when his wife goes on business trips. Lord have mercy. The whole thing makes me feel like I have a cold heart - yeah, my Dad left when I was barely in kindergarten, but I got over it. Many independent, gut-wrenching years later. We all have our coping mechanisms, sure, but most of us don't feel the need to subject the public to pseudo-emotional Evanescence outtakes.

Keyshia Cole - Love (2006)

*1/2 (of four)

What's this girl still doing here? I thought we voted her off "American Idol" like three seasons ago.

All-American Rejects - Move Along (2006)

**1/2 (of four)

The "Dirty Little Secret" guys are back, and the secret this time is the video director can't get enough of lead singer Tyson Ritter. Who spends about two-thirds of the video standing in front of the camera, lip synching his ass off, while the director chops and screws the backdrops and Tyson's outfits a frame at a time. We get office job shirt-and-tie Tyson, surgical-scrubs Tyson, crucial-football-game Tyson, stood up for dinner date button-up Tyson, subdivision t-shirt Tyson, family-gathering polo Tyson, girlfriend-leaving striped-shirt Tyson, hall-of-records tweed-sweater Tyson, cop-writing-him-a-ticket white-novelty-tee Tyson and several others.

These are, I guess, the crucial and mundane moments in this guy's life, repeated ad nauseum. Or they represent his different sides or different motivations. I don't fucking know. I'm out of college, I no longer have to look for deep metaphors where they shouldn't rightfully exist. Even the director gives up after awhile, closing the video with a full minute and a half of standard band performance footage, with lots of enthusiastic rented TRL kids jumping up and down in the background. This is our only chance to learn that the All-American Rejects drummer eerily resembles Conan O'Brien.