Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Nick Lachey - What's Left of Me (2006)

*1/2 (of four)

Jessica Simpson's embarrassed, heartbroken ex is attempting a comeback built on public sympathy not seen since Gloria Estefan's 1991 release "Coming Out of the Dark." But, while the Miami Sound Machine singer's chart-topping sympathy single was seen as the triumphant reemergence of a strong-willed woman who wouldn't let a wicked car accident get her down, Nick Lachey's sympathy comeback is just plain pathetic.

Have you read the recent Rolling Stone profile of Nick? He cries, he questions his manhood, and he's completely overshadowed personally and professionally by the gorgeous blond who dumped him on his ass. The RS article would have made Nick seem like the biggest loser alive if "George W. Bush: Worst President Ever?" hadn't been on the cover.

The difference is, you know if Laura left Dubya, instead of spending a month in his pajamas, crying into a quart of Ben and Jerry's, he'd get out there, play golf, bomb a brown-skinned nation and make up a few new words to console himself. Nick's reaction is to belt out emotional lyrics like, "I'm broken and I'm fading / I'm half the man I thought I would be." Even his pecs are pouting.

Nick, wearing one of Simon Cowell's black T-shirts, mopes around his poorly lit, blue/green-tinted mansion as his relationship dissolves in front of a TV crew. But any resemblance to persons living or dead in this video is entirely coincidental - the woman who's breaking up with Nick here (played by TRL host Vanessa) has brown hair, and she knows Chicken of the Sea is a brand of tuna, not chicken. See? They're nothing alike!

Director Ray Kay goes on autopilot throughout the entire affair. Aside from having your actors constantly flash sorrowful looks off-camera, how do you show the dissolution of a marraige without words? Well, if you said, "By resorting to something completely cheesy and ineffective like showing their belongings fading into nothingness," you win the Grand Prize. Which is a date with Nick Lachey himself. Don't worry if you're kinda chunky or smelly or a guy, Nick's cranked up the knob to "Super Desperate," and he's ready for your lovin'.

Pussycat Dolls featuring Big Snoop Dogg - Buttons (2006)

**1/2 (of four)

The dust has long settled on the Spice Girls phenomenon, which opened the door for the rest of the TRL revolution, and the Pussycat Dolls - a burlesque dance troupe from L.A. - have all but replaced Posh, Sporty, Sexy, Dopey and Grumpy. However, where the Spices were determined to construct individual personalities, the Pussycat Dolls are indistinguishable from one another. It's just a sea of glistening, tight, sexy bodies writhing, moaning and grinding. I think I prefer this approach.

"Buttons" is nowhere near as obnoxious as the Emancipation of Mimi outtake "Stickwitu," or the Fergie outtake "Don't Cha (Wish Ya Girlfriend Was Hot Like Me)," which I've seen more fat girls sing without irony than any other Watch Me Attempt To Reassure Myself I Look Good song in recent memory. This track has more of a midtempo harem vibe to it, and the video puts it to quality, spankworthy use.

Veteran director Francis Lawrence decks out the entire video in shades of black and orange-brown, on a vast soundstage. The six PCDs spend four minutes making love to the camera and teaching seventh graders how to dance like strippers, while Lawrence cuts to interludes with a curiously windless wind tunnel, open flame, a ballet bar (the Dolls are limber, it should surprise you not to learn), rows of dangling gold bead-curtains and - yes, thank you, Lord! - black chairs.

All this is enough to make you forget Snoop Dogg is in the video, too. "Buttons" marks the first time I've seen Snoop officially credited as "Big Snoop Dogg" on an MTV title card. It's almost as if he desperately has to assert his masculinity in this roomful of chair-grinding knockouts. ("I'm big, I swear! All six of you can get an inch of my manhood!") Still, Snoop quickly gives up trying to earn any attention amid this Maxim lesbo-orgy and hides behind thick sunglasses and a black Unabomber hoodie and enjoys the show. Wise deshizzle, Snoop. Wise deshizzle.

Hawthorne Heights - Saying Sorry (2006)

*1/2 (of four)

I can't hear the band name Hawthorne Heights without picturing a primetime soap-opera knockoff of "The O.C." where the parents are adulterous, the kids are into drugs, and one of the main characters gets killed off in the season finale. Instead, what we're in for here is a bunch of dudes in nurse costumes, standing on fake clouds and playing music Billboard.com describes as "post-hardcore/emo-pop." To those of us in our late twenties, it's just a big, steaming pile of subpar Green Day, Blink 182, Third Eye Blind and Foo Fighters poop.

The nurse guys play on their clouds, angels with too much eye makeup float above them, a little boy and girl play doctor and one of the band's girlfriends finds another chick's number in his jacket. While the guy and girl are fighting, the souls of each of them come up out of their bodies and hold hands, as if to say, "Our bodies and minds hate the fuck out of each other, but that doesn't mean our formless spirits can't hump like bunnies until dawn." The ethereal boning never materializes, and
neither does the watchability in this video from director Major Lightner, who should rightfully be busted down to "Private First Class."

The Fray - Over My Head (Cable Car) (2006)

**1/2 (of four)

I'm stating the obvious and the already-stated-a-million-times, but we all know every kid who gets picked on in school dreams of becoming a famous rock star and showing all those little bully bastards who's boss. So, when I saw goober-looking lead singer Isaac Slade's adult face dissolve into the very similar visage (same criss-cross, vertical hairstyle and everything) of a little uniformed schoolboy, I thought I'd be in for another music video rendering of the outcast emerging triumphant.

Imagine my surprise when this kid seemed to get along with his peers, who didn't even make fun of him for religiously studying sheet music for his piano recital. They were all laughing with him, not at him! Then the kid has the opportunity to cheat on a standardized test, and he doesn't. Instead, he finishes the test, takes center stage in his school's empty auditorium and belts out the chorus to this song. And gets a glimpse of his illustrious future - playing in a band and performing to packed crowds.

It's almost as if this Elliot Lester video is saying that, if you study hard enough and are tenacious with your dreams, you'll amount to something. What the hell has happened to MTV? And, for that matter, what's happened to me? I used to dismiss pap like this out of turn. Instead I'm singing along and hoping the kid gets to hold onto his lunch money after all. Man, am I old and soft.