Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Champion's Chariot

It's been a little while since BLH has served up an offering, and for that, I apologize. I got lazy, experimented with Tumblr, did some other important stuff. Now I'm back, more or less forced to respond to NME's picks for "Greatest Music Videos of All-Time."

It is, at most, an OK list. Respect is paid where due. But they got off to a bad start by dumping "Billie Jean" at #100. I figure this is a consequence of "web strategy." NME probably figures that a sizeable chunk of their readers might not bother to go beyond the top fold of the first page if the very first video doesn't draw them in. "Billie Jean" would serve that purpose, but then you start comparing it to the next 90 videos or so and the anger creeps in. This is better then "Billie Jean"? Seriously, this? There is a Coldplay video which is better than "Billie Jean", so declares NME.

Besides being a great video, "Billie Jean" was a shared experience for millions, an introduction to the new, adult Michael Jackson. I didn't exist at the time, but I'm not young anymore. I've experienced the awe felt at a new artist with a killer song and an incredible video. You never quite shake it.

Artist: Tyler, The Creator
Song: “Yonkers”
Rating: A+

I was at my temp job when I loaded Tyler onto my screen. This was at a time when I was still learning about OFWGKTA, feeling a little dismissive of most of the stuff that I had piled onto my iPod with the exception of Earl Sweatshirt's "Earl," which I kept listening to even if I didn't quite understand what I liked about it. I didn't like the one single I had heard off of Tyler's album and didn't bother with the rest.

I watched this video and then watched it again a little while later, threw it up on my friend's Facebook wall, watched it on his wall, then finally started doing some work. Today, I'm obsessed with Tyler and Earl and a little ashamed that it took a visual aide to make me appreciate the artistic deviance at work with this rap collective.

When Tyler turns from his Thinker pose, the menace on his face is instant and unexpected. His eyes suggest sociopathic tendencies; he's not quite there but still in total control of the situation. The aggression dissolves just as quickly as it came, but it still lingers on unseen, abetted by that sickly shrill beat.

This video aims to entertain with unease, which can be said for the song and the artist as well. The camera focus won't settle, Tyler stops lip-syching at curious moments and we're left with an uncomfortable final shot that doesn't go away when we want it to.

Tyler is a great actor here, conveying "evil" without actually doing anything.
Now, think about that: "evil" is not an emotion. How can an actor convey that without looking foolish, or at least believable? I'm not sure, honestly, but Tyler pulls it off. For his part, I credit the eyes.

I guess his presence loses its' effect once you "get" Tyler and OFWGKTA, and the video does get a little cartoony, but does so without having to comprimise its original intent.

That first view stuck with me like few videos ever have - or will - do. I think the video will end up being the very best of year among the bloggers, and the track should rank high on the year-end singles lists too.

In case you were wondering, "Yonkers" didn't make it onto NME's list. Neither did "Thriller." Draw your own conclusions.