Pop Screen

Music Video Reviews

Bright Eyes

“The First Day of My Life”

Sweet lord, is there anything more awkward than when a friend hands you some headphones and says you should listen to a “great” song? All Garden State-style? Especially when it’s a damn Bright Eyes song? Ugh.

Well, in this video, director John Cameron Mitchell (the writer, director and star of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”) tries to craft a warm ‘n’ fuzzy romantic experience from that perennially dicey musical endeavor.

The video is made up of a series of vignettes in which ordinary, non-actor folks at some generic Generation Y house party listen to the title song on clunky, old-school headphones. The camera position puts you in the eyes of the friend, desperately waiting for the listener to nod with approval.

But, as usual, the responses tend to be somewhere between bored and mildly enthused. An old lady looks vaguely entertained. A guy who looks like Elliott Smith nuzzles his girlfriend tenderly. Another teenaged couple makes fools of themselves for the camera. One guy just seems irritated. I guess it’s only appropriate that a Bright Eyes video would be so superficial in its emotional voyeurism.

The video succeeds because it captures the only truly great line in the song: “I’d rather be working towards a paycheck than waiting to win the lottery.”

Love and music-listening are more often about slow-burning simmers or trial-and-error processes than about revelatory moments in which the song Natalie Portman gives you actually changes your life. And it’s comforting for a video to acknowledge that, I suppose.

—Abe Riesman


“Noah’s Ark”

Who (or what) exactly is Cocorosie? Is it (she? they?) an electronic group with a drum machine? “Lusciously luminous” indie-pop-tronica? This girl with a ridiculous hair-cut that looks, lip-synchs, and dances like Ben Affleck jumping on a trampoline in front of digi-stars of David and computerized boots? I think not.

These questions could be deeper than you think. Either way, the effect of the video for the song “Noah’s Ark” is the sort of feeling you get after watching the film version of a book you’ve long loved.

I don’t mean to say that I’ve cherished this melody, and can’t bear to see it maladapted, I just mean that listening to the soft, faux-baton crooning of the song, and then seeing this same Joanna Newsom-esque popadry set before a backdrop of shape-shifting, color-altering starscapes and dream sequences, feels sort of like seeing Agent Smith muttering Elvish in a fever-dream to Frodo Baggins. Only sort of, but weird is weird.

There’s nothing wrong with the video, and, in fact, it’s rather pretty when one is tired enough, but mustachioed (or bop-up mulletted) women and dreamy bed chamber twists have to be timed just right...right?

There’s a lot of symbolism here (digital merry-go-round caballus turns into shoe containing fragile singer, propelled laterally off-screen by dreamy vapors), or else the creators mean nothing by the art at all, which is almost better.

Pretty in pink, I suppose, but a little too Animatrix-meets-Supergrass-album-art-sy for this manly man.

—Henry M. Cowles

Jo Dee Messina

“My Give a Damn is Busted”

I’m almost certain this track is on Tom Cruise’s iPod. Why? Because it contains a scathing indictment of psychiatry, that’s why, not to mention well-suiting his reputation as a part-time cowboy.

One might ask what qualifies pop-country chanteuse Joe Dee Messina to rail against the mental health establishment. Jo Dee may not know much about the history of psychology, but she sure knows how to rock a pair of skin-tight, low-rise, leather jeans.

In fact, certain members of the viewing public (namely the male ones) may find it difficult to stand without embarrassment at the video’s conclusion.

Melodically speaking, the song is average pop-country fare: the acoustic guitar is nice and twangy, there’s the requisite solo fiddle wailing in the background, and the snare drum is mixed nice and loud. The track really would have benefited from a stronger bassline, however—as “Give a Damn,” unlike Messina herself, really doesn’t have much of a bottom.

Lyrically, Messina revisits the girl-power themes Shania Twain profitably explored in tracks like “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!”, but Messina’s richer, raspier, Etheridge-esque voice makes “Give a Damn” an edgier and more enjoyable experience.

One detects an incipient feminism in Messina’s songcraft, but this is Red State music, so righteous indignation is softened to mere peevishness.

There’s really not a whole lot going on in the video: just Messina walking down a city street in a series of seductive pairs of pants with her simpering ex in tow.

Apparently, his cheatin’ ways have led to Messina’s titular “give a damn” becoming “busted.” Her acting is animated and engaging, so I wasn’t bored by the video’s flimsy premise, but I wasn’t exactly bowled over.

Nonetheless, it’s worth a look, much like Messina’s posterior. Or Cruise’s, for that matter. Analyze that, if you dare.

—Bernard Parham