A Semi-Thoughtful Analysis Of The 5 Music Videos Everyone's Been Talking About This Week

Celebrities in drag! Brooklyn stereotypes! Conspiracy theories! Self-esteem! This week's most viral music videos have it all!

Jul 18, 2014 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

image

I can't remember the last time people shared music videos on social media as enthusiastically as they have been this week. (OK, I can -- it was last December when Beyoncé released 17 videos at once.) Over the last few days, I've seen the same half-dozen or so YouTube and Vevo links -- or articles about those videos -- posted over and over. It's a goddamn music video renaissance! 

And you know what music videos make me do? No, not dance. They make me think! And I'm going to share my special thoughts about the five most viral music videos of this past week with you right now.

"Just One Of The Guys" by Jenny Lewis

In my eyes, for the most part, Jenny Lewis can do no wrong. I wanted to be her when I was a kid, and I've been a big fan of her music for almost a decade. I love the sound of this new single, and even though I don't really relate to the biological-clockiness of the lyrics, I've totally had moments where I think, Why are all the guys my age dating women 10 years younger?! You know, like Kristen Stewart and Brie Larson.

I'm not sure why they -- and Anne Hathaway -- are in the video; maybe they're friends with Lewis and because someone had the foresight to be like, "Put famous beautiful actresses who tend to take themselves very seriously in drag and tell them to act goofy! The internet will explode!" And I find Tennessee Thomas's out-of-focus presence kind of distracting. I texted friends, "Who the hell is the one with the wig over her eyes?" in order to find out who it even was (and I thank them for not replying with a link to Let Me Google That For You).

Anyway, the video has funny moments and is pretty to look at -- Lewis's suit and guitar are everything and then some, and Anne Hathaway's eyeliner is awesome -- but I'd rather just listen to the song.

"Brooklyn Girls" by Catey Shaw

Remember that time California natives got really angry at Katy Perry for making generalizations about their state in her song "California Gurls"? And how Californian women incredulously declared in response to the video, "My nipples do not dispense Reddi-Wip, and I would not survive if encased in Jell-O"? No? Well, that's because that didn't happen.

But switch out "California" with "Brooklyn" and spell "Girls" correctly, and all hell breaks loose.

Brooklynites, both native and newish, are getting all Grumpy Bodega Cat over this video, not just because the song is pop poop, but because it's sung by a Virginia transplant who arguably glamorizes gentrification and makes the borough seem like trying-too-hard-hipster Disneyland. (Or Disney World, rather, since this is the east coast we're talking about.) 

I'm a Brooklyn resident -- have been for a couple of years -- and my father was born and raised here, so my opinion about this is, like, 85% legitimate. And that opinion is as follows: this song doesn't matter. To quote Brokelyn editor David Colon's perfect reaction to the overreaction, "The 'Brooklyn Girls' video isn't a harbinger of anything, so shut up already." (And that was just the headline!)

Seriously, it'll be OK. 

"You & I (Nobody In The World)" by John Legend

Boy, am I torn about this video! The imagery is powerful, especially when you know the stories behind some of the cameos, like those of Tig Notaro and Laverne Cox. But I can’t help but feel they’re used as emotionally manipulative tools to distract from the condescension of the whole thing. 

With the exception of the first verse, the lyrics don’t really go with the visuals. Most of the song is about how much this man loves this woman, but most of the images are of various women, presumably representing all women (isn’t it fun to pick out which one is “you”?), who, in the slow-motion shadow of Legend’s supermodel wife, take on a vibe of beauty pity. It’s as if the director is saying, “Don’t worry, ladies. Even though you don’t look like Chrissy Teigen, someone will feel this way about you someday.”

That brings me to my other issue with the lyrics/imagery pairing. Perhaps the woman Legend is singing to (presumably Teigen), doesn’t know she’s beautiful even without her makeup, but projecting that insecurity onto this representation of all woman and trying to make it all better with a man’s assurance doesn’t really make me feel uplifted.

"Try" by Colbie Caillat 

This video has a very similar implied message to John Legend's "You & I." Both even repeat the words "You don't have to try." I think it works a little better in this case because it feels like it's coming from a friend and not from the perspective of man who probably sees you naked.

Because both of these videos came out at the same time, I had to fight self-esteem-message exhaustion in order to appreciate this; it really is easy to get tired of melodramatic portrayals of women's appearance insecurity. (Remember when I yelled at Dove about that sketch artist ad?) But I relate to the message, and even though I'm not crazy about the song, I do hope it touches women and girls who aren't as cynical as I am.

Speaking of not trying, I wish the director had tried a little harder to think of a video concept that didn't feel so similar to Hungarian singer Boggie's Photoshop-slamming video for "Nouveau Parfum."

"Foil" by Weird Al Yankovic

Weird Al is back! Again! (Remember "White & Nerdy"? Please tell me '90s kids don't think that was his first song.) He's pulling a modified Beyoncé by releasing eight videos in eight days. This is the best week of people who love song parodies' lives!

My favorite one so far has been his take on "Blurred Lines," which is called "Word Crimes." It's all about the Internet-expedited demise of proper English, and I literally (yes, literally literally) cheered as I watched it, even though I found an ironic (yes, ironic ironic) grammatical error in the video graphics.

Anyway, I've seen "Foil," set to the tune of Lorde's "Royals," shared in my Facebook feed more than "Word Crimes." At first, it didn't impress me. Weird Al has a trying-too-hard vibe in his comedic style that I nostalgically embrace most of the time, but when I saw that the song was really about aluminum foil, I felt he wasn't trying hard enough. Like a jerk, I thought, Did he just go to the online rhyming dictionary and pick a word?  But then it won me over for the following reasons:

  • His hair kind of looks like Lorde's.
  • Science rhymes.
  • Patton Oswalt.
  • Thomas Lennon.
  • The sharp turn into paranoia humor. (Is "paranoia humor" a term?)
  • I may or may not have slept with the guy playing the camera man.

In other words, I recommend him. I mean, it. The video.

Now it's your turn to share your special thoughts on these videos. What do you think of them? Do you miss classic MTV, or do you prefer the Internet's music-video-on-demand convenience?