Once again: fun with music videos

“Wanderlust,” Björk; “Ready, Set, Go!,” Tokio Hotel; and “I Will Possess Your Heart,” Death Cab for Cutie.

I’m not particularly interested in anything playing at the movie theaters, I haven’t been to a concert in a while, and I don’t feel like writing about the book I just read, so it’s time to revive my favorite type of evergreen post. Behold: reviews of music videos!

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“Wanderlust,” Björk.

When you study copyediting, you learn to avoid the word unique—little in this world truly loves up to the definition—but if anyone should be described with the U word, it’s Björk. What’s great about the ageless Icelandic pixie is that, as much attention as her bizarre costumes get her (and honestly, I think the world is a more beautiful place for being home to a crazy woman who shows up at the Oscars wearing a stuffed swan), she truly is an artist, with an unmistakable voice and a marvelously eclectic musical sensibility.

The video for “Wanderlust” is just as kooky as you’d expect from Björk: vivid hallucinatory imagery, a creepy doppelganger, enormous water buffalo puppets that look as though they’ve escaped from filming the live-action Where the Wild Things Are, and Björk herself decked out in colorful Mongolian tribal garb. After a full minute of water buffaloes batting their Snuffleupagus eyes, accompanied by what sounds like a foghorn, the song proper begins with little Mongolian Björk creating a river out of a puddle. Then the water buffaloes all go swimming downstream, with Björk riding on top and doing battle with that creepy doppelganger, who emerges from her backpack and engages her in a series of elaborately choreographed somersaults.

The song itself seems to be about rejecting civilization, with all its hypocrisy and repression and greed, but I don’t really see that in the video, just the drive to explore, to be free. (I haven’t a clue what the doppelganger is about.) Regardless, though, the visuals are hypnotic, and Björk’s full-throated refrain is beautifully alluring. And no one else makes videos quite like this, which is why Björk is such a treasure. I wouldn’t want every pop star to adopt Björk’s distinctive style—the thought of, say, Ashlee Simpson dressed like a Mongolian tribesman makes me cringe—but the day on which Björk released a simple concert video in which she wore jeans and a black halter top would be a sad day indeed.

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“Ready, Set, Go!,” Tokio Hotel.

Bill Kaulitz, lead singer of German emo band Tokio Hotel, styles himself so much like an anime character that he probably could try out to be one of Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Girls should Love, Angel, Music, or Baby retire. He certainly has the face for it—fine bones, angular features, wide-set eyes exaggerated with sooty black eyeliner—but his look sort of clashes with the look of the video for “Ready, Set, Go!” off the band’s first English-language album, and the mild dissonance cracks me up.

We first see the four members of the band as slaves in some kind of dystopic underground labor camp, shouldering tools and marching in lockstep with their fellow worker bees. But then they all spot the Tokio Hotel band, a brightly lit oasis in a sea of grey, and all the poor drones are inspired to cast off their burden and climb the walls to reach the light overhead.

It’s actually a pretty good way to interpret—and broaden—the lyrics’ you-and-me-against-the-world sentiment, but I can’t help but grin each time I see the worker-bee incarnation of Bill. He’s just way too prettified to be mining or drilling or whatever. No wonder half the commenters on YouTube are convinced he’s a girl. When he’s leading the band, the dramatic emo-androgyny look works great, but when portraying an anonymous laborer in a fascist underground hell, not so much.

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“I Will Possess Your Heart,” Death Cab for Cutie.

The classic stalker song, “Every Breath You Take” by the Police, is pretty and poppy enough to fool those who aren’t listening too closely into thinking it’s romantic, but I doubt the same will be true for Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Possess Your Heart.” It’s not that the newer song isn’t beautiful—it has a great crescendo of an introduction, a simple driving melody, and striking layers of orchestration—but it has an eerie quality, too—the out-of-sync passages, the repetitive wah-wah-wah of the guitar, the lyrics that feel more insistent than passionate. “I Will Possess Your Heart” is, appropriately, unsettling and kind of creepy.

Which is why the video’s concept amuses me. It cuts repeatedly from the four members of the band playing in a small room somewhere to a nameless red-headed woman traveling the world alone—riding a bus, sitting on a rocky beach, walking through an open-air market—and I can’t help imagine that she’s trying to put as much space as possible between herself and those freaks. That would explain her glum expression, her seeming lack of joy in the splendor of the European, Middle Eastern, and Asian locales she is lucky enough to visit.

Still, it’s sort of depressing. I can’t help but envy Red her travels—some of the travelogue shots are gorgeous—and her apparent lack of appreciation annoys me, even if she is on the run from a band that’s seeming less Cutie and more Death Cab. So it’s a relief to see her smile, a little bit, toward the end of the video. Death Can does not, in fact, possess her heart, and she’s free to enjoy the spectacular ocean view with which we leave her.

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