HOT ONE: Weezer – “Pork and Beans” (video)
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 25, 2008
You’d hate for the net to think that you lost your cool
One of the theories I’ve been proffering recently to anyone that will listen is that the internet, as a collective entity, should be recognized as a state, or at least as some sort of republic, in the electoral process. When it got big in the 90s, you could argue that the net was little more than a bunch of amateurish individuals still recovering from the revelatory powers of emoticons, but as the world wide web came of age around the turn of the century (around the term “world wide web” stopped being used altogether, I suppose), it has evolved and congealed into a network powerful, influential and unified enough to certainly at least measure up against some of the jobberier states out there (I’m not going to name names, but suffice to say that if you have a directional in your name that isn’t “North,” your clout is probably somewhat comparable). As for who the delegates would be to represent this increasingly streamlined superpower–look no further than Weezer’s “Pork and Beans” video.
I think we all knew that we had something special to expect from this video. It’s no coincidence that this is my third time writing about the band in the space of a month or so–after a half-decade or so of relative non-committance, Weezer appear to be gearing up to once again be the Band of the Moment, and amidst their none-too-impressive amount of viable competition, they already seemed to be well on their way (“Pork & Beans” quickly jumped to #1 on the Modern Rock charts, and is currently in its third week on top). And as anyone with even a passing interest in Weezer knows, their musical success has always been inextricably tied to a series of creative, playful, and instantly iconic music videos, whether it be the Happy Days mash of “Buddy Holly,” the sumo “T&A” of “Hash Pipe” or the Playboy Mansion crashing of “Beverly Hills.” Clearly, if Weezer were really prepping for one last stab at Rock God status, the “Pork and Beans” video was going to have to have something to do with it.
Well, 2.3 million viewers within 48 hours of the “Pork and Beans” video debuting say that this vid indeed might have something to contribute to a Weezer power play. In case you haven’t watched the link yet and haven’t been linked to it a thousand times elsewhere, let me ‘splain: Weezer has congregated nearly all of the most esteemed internet representatives for a singalong, a love letter to the YouTube sensation, among whose ranks “Pork & Beans” will no doubt soon be able to count itself. Some of them I had never heard of before (Sex Advice Girl, Charlie the Unicorn, Will it Blend?), some of them I had heard of but never actually bothered to watch (Leave Britney Alone, Lightsaber Guys, Miss Teen South Carolina), some of them I had seen but not in years (Diet Coke and Mentos, It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time!, All Your Base are Belong To Us) and some I had seen fairly recently and fairly frequently (Shoes, Chocolate Rain, Dramatic Chipmunk/Gopher). There are some big ones missing–you can read ten of ’em here, and that still doesn’t even mention Rick Astley, My New Haircut or 2 Girls 1 Cup–but this is probably as close to an internet meme canon as has ever been organized in popular culture.
That said, it’s not the first time such a thing has been attempted. South Park fans will no doubt note a coincidental similarity to something recently attempted in the show’s “Canada on Strike!” episode, in which the boys end up in the midst of a fight-to-the-death between many of the phenomena included here. And indeed, Canadian frat-rock torch-bearers Barenaked Ladies got there first even in the music video realm, with 2006’s little-seen “Sound of Your Voice,” also including appearances from the Numa Numa guy, the Diet Coke & Mentos scientists and the History of Dance dude. These precedents, however, do little to dull the impact of “Pork and Beans’–the South Park scene seems forced (surprise, surprise) and lazy, and the BNL vid, while perfectly nice and chuckle-worthy, feels slight and maybe a little pre-mature (though to be fair, I suppose the fact that I have no idea who the fuck Barats and Bereta are might have something to do with that).
Maybe it just took until 2008 for enough of these phenomena to properly materialize before they could be documented so brilliantly in music video form. And truly, Weezer were the perfect band to do it–the video functions, along with ’95’s classic “Buddy Holly” and ’02’s underrated Muppet melee “Keep Fishin’,” as a sort of third arm in a Weezer-inserted-in-Popular-Media trifecta. And like the other two, it’s not the clever references or subtle innovations that make the video so enthralling, it’s the sheer enthusiasm they display for the source material, a like-mindedness that when coupled with the generally good vibes of Weezer’s soundtracking, makes all of pop culture feel like one warm, fuzzy family. In real life, it’s possible that in five years no one will remember who Chris Crocker and Tay Zonday are, but in the world of “Pork and Beans,” they’ll always be rocking out with Daft Bodies, sipping experimental margaritas by the Will it Blend? guy. Nice to know.
Perhaps the greatest legacy of “Pork and Beans,” though, will be as the signifier of the moment that the internet officially replaced TV as the homeland of the music video. Back in the day, a video of the magnitude of “Pork and Beans” would have had a specific, much-hyped premiere on MTV, and its popularity would be measured by its ranking on shows like TRL or the weekly Top 20 video countdown or something of that ilk–now, the moment of its leaking to YouTube is its de facto premiere date, and the number of hits is the popularity indicator. But even more tellingly, you remember how there used to be music videos that specifically made fun of other music videos, like David Lee Roth’s “Just a Gigolo / I Ain’t Got Nobody” and Blink-182’s “All the Small Things“? Well, this is the 21st-century equivalent, in which music videos are no longer popular or iconic enough to justify such a mocking pastiche–people that aren’t home in the three hours a day when videos are shown on basic cable might not recognize references to the latest Rihanna or JT videos, but everyone can instantly recognize the Dramatic Chipmunk and the Sneezing Panda. Sad for a former MTV junkie such as myself, but possibly promising for the future of the medium at large.
As for Weezer, now with the entire state/republic of the internet on their side–if this doesn’t make them as popular as they ever were before, then absolutely nothing will. Until the “Greatest Man Who Ever Lived” video, at least.