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OMGWTFLOL: Making Sense of a World Where Sandra Bullock Wins Oscars

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 9, 2010

OK, so first and foremost, let’s not act like this is the first time that this has happened. Plenty of Academy Award winners throughout history have had past lives that made their newfound prestige almost impossible to reconcile. Sean Penn was once just the stoner from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Halle Berry starred in Swordfish immediately before Monster’s Ball, and if you had told someone in 1985 that Mel Gibson and Kevin Costner would both win Oscars for directing before Martin Scorsese got his, they’d bash your skull in with a vinyl copy of Brothers in Arms. Part of the fine legacy or the Oscar is its ability to make the unfathomable not only possible, but downright normative–which is why six months from now, absolutely no one will give a second’s thought as to how the chick who made Point Break and K-19: The Widowmaker was able to capture one of film making’s highest honors. It’s part of the process, and we’re all certainly used to it by now–we’ve even come to expect it, to a certain extent.

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OMGWTFLOL: Seether’s “Careless Whisper” Video

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 5, 2009

To be fair, it’s not really like Wham!–they of the Choose Life t-shirts and shufflecock-stuffed shorts–had an image of particular integrity to desecrate when it came to music videos. So my reflexive response to the clip that Seether deemed appropriate to make for their otherwise surprisingly faithful cover of George and Andrew’s 1985 #1 hit “Careless Whisper” is not one of anger, really, but rather one of almost unprecedented bewilderment. If you need a refresher for context, you might want to take a look at the original clip–far from a masterpiece of the medium, but a fairly representative video of the time period, with sweeping tracking shots, slow-motion drama, and lots of lip-sync preening. It looked like the song sounded, so fair enough. More importantly, it would’ve been a video easily transposed to the nu-metal aesthetic–get a dark-haired vixen with a couple tattoos lying half naked and asleep in a bed, with singer Shaun Morgan sitting up and looking guiltily over his shoulder at her, cut it with footage of the band performing the song in an empty warehouse or something, and boom, you just bought yourself three months’ of airplay on MTV2 and FUSE.

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OMGWTFLOL: Jamie Foxx f/ T-Pain – “Blame It” (Video)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 2, 2009

Of all of my tired lamentations, the death of the Event Video might be my biggest. It makes sense–in a day and age where small-budget YouTube wonders like OK Go’s “Here It Goes Again” are the only videos that make much cultural impact, and when vids are only shown at all on the major video networks at the most ungodly of hours, it simply doesn’t make sense to invest half a million dollars and weeks’ worth of shoot time into a four-minute clip. Perhaps in these ravaged economic times, it’s not even socially responsible to drop the countless thousands that Puff Daddy could afford to throw into his clips in more arrogant days. Still, I can’t help miss those ridiculous, over-stuffed, cameo-strewn vids of yesteryear–even the most obnoxious, least purposeful of them were still guaranteed to put a smile on my face, and at least made me feel like the artists cared almost as much about the power of the medium as I did.

So when I saw those three words–“Hype Williams Presents”–at the start of Jamie Foxx’s “Blame It” video, my heart skipped a beat. Nobody did the Event Video back in the day like Hype, and even his least ambitious clips still had panoramic landscapes and puffy suits and lots of slow motion shots and such. Then the list of stars. Forest Whitaker. Jake Gyllenhaal. Samuel L. Jackson. RON HOWARD. What the fuck was going on with this video? Not even “Victory“–the very peak of Puffy’s bloated egomania–boasted a cast like this. I started imagining possible plots in my head–I figured the most likely one, considering the setting and song subject, was the old “Young, cocky R&B singer seduces the hot vixen girlfriend of old, powerful mob boss/club owner and escapes with the girl within inches of his life” standby. Foxx would be the singer, of course. Whitaker would be the boss, with Howard his consigliere or second-in-command. Gyllenhaal would be the best friend, who warns the singer “naw man, she ain’t worth it, don’t even think about it, listen to me your best friend,” etc. Jackson would get involved in a knife fight somehow. Whatever it was, I couldn’t wait for it all to unfold.

But…it never unfolded. They get to the club, Foxx starts singing and fooling around with some girls, everyone appears to be having a good time…and that’s the extent of the video’s drama. Two girls are about to kiss, and then don’t. Howard lifts a glass to the camera to say, “Yes, I am an old white person in a Jamie Foxx and T-Pain video.” Some guy messes around in a panda suit for the majority of the video, and then lifts his costume head off to reveal that it is, in fact…DL Hughley? Foxx himself? I can’t really tell, to be honest. All in all, it’s nothing more than a combination between a Dimly Lit Club Video and a Famous Friends video–not that there’s anything wrong with either of those classic formulas, but…this video had a credit sequence. Your video is simply not allowed to have a fucking CREDIT SEQUENCE unless it’s going to be at least seven minutes long, begin and end with corny dialogue segments, and have at least one sequence where the music changes and everyone has a synchronized dance number. This video had none of these things, thus making it an unequivocal failure–and a heartbreaking one, at that.

Maybe after watching it a couple more times, I’ll be able to better appreciate the comedic absurdity of the whole venture. For now, though, it feels like a bad April Fools’ Day trick.

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Commercial Break/OMGWTFLOL: The Freak and His Freaky Doppleganger Ad

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 9, 2009

Does this commercial seem more like the trailer to an upcoming dystopian sci-fi flick than a spot for a new sports video game to anyone else? Everything about it I find unsettling, from the way Timmy uses “we” at the start of all of his sentences like a 1984 officer (or one of those weirdo twins from The Matrix Reloaded), to the way the CGI Lincecum sings along to the radio, to that odd bit with the showering at the very end (especially strange because both Tim and his doppleganger still look like they’re 14 years old). I do like The Freak, even if he looks like he should be auditioning for the Chris Marquette role in The Girl Next Door 2, and I generally support his jump to the TV commercial format, but this is just a little too out there for my tastes.

Besides, everyone knows that if you absolutely have to make fun of Wang Chung, you use “Everybody Have Fun Tonight.” Calling out a classic like “Dance Hall Days” is just unfair and lazy.

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OMGWTFLOL: The Firm – “Star Trekkin'” (1987)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 25, 2009

I finally saw my (work-mandated) first ever episode of anything Star Trek related when I watched an episode of The Next Generation last Friday. It was OK, but it bore remarkably little semblance to my primary exposure to the Trek universe beforehand:

Arguably just as preposterous and funny-looking, but not as jarringly enthusiastic, spine-tinglingly shrill or horrifyingly hallucinogenic as I had been led to believe.

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OMGWTFLOL: Michael Jackson – “You Rock My World” Video (2001)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 19, 2008

Tried to keep my sanity

In 2001, it was still possible that by the time all was said and done, Michael Jackson’s career achievements could significantly outweigh his weirdnesses. Not probable, mind you, nor even in any way likely–this was, after all, after the incidents with Bubbles, the Elephant Man, Lisa Marie, the first round of sexual misdeed accusations, the big-ass statue, “Heal the World,” the voodoo curses, the skin-bleaching disease, Neverland Ranch, Moonwalker and the 3-D movie. Luckily, Michael still had thirty years of financial success and about a dozen truly classic pop songs to fall back on, so by the team of Invincible‘s release in ’01, it looked like maybe, just maybe he might be able to turn it around in time before the very last of the good will he had earned with the public had been sapped up.

And what better to announce his return to the limelight than with that old Michael Jackson standard, the epic story music video? Ever since the relatively innocuous green-screen vids for “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and “Rock With You” from the end of the 70s, MJ’s videos had just grown bigger and bigger, from the zombie meta-movie of “Thriller,” to the harrowing urban tale/ twenty-minute dance-off of “Bad” to the half-hour, cameo and controversy-crazy event premiere of “Black or White,” right up to the zero-gravity insanity of “Scream,” at that point the most expensive music video ever made. Wisely, the video for “You Rock My World” did not try to one-up that masterwork–doing so would have been virtually impossible, unless MJ had figured out a way for his videos to physically jump out of your TV and punch you in the brain–but it was definitely still Michael Jackson Big, albeit of the slightly less bombastic, “Remember the Time” / “Beat It” variety.

(~$25,000 per second, and still worth every penny)

Notably, in the style of Puff Daddy’s similarly-hyped megavid “Victory,” MJ enlisted a bill of famous friends and family to help him out, including Chris Tucker as “The Friend,” Michael Madsen as “The Rich Guy,” classic That Guy Billy Drago as “The Asshole With a Knife,” and of course, Marlon “I Got Out of Bed This Morning!” Brando as “The Boss.” The video begins with Chris and Mike eating at a chinese restaurant, bickering about the check, and watching the girls go by. Mike sees a particularly fine one and follows her into a club, which, like all clubs in the Jacksonverse, has yet to escape the 1940s. Once there, he notices the girl draped around Madsen’s arm, and decides the only way to suitably woo her is to perform a big song-and-dance number, getting the whole club involved.

Naturally, Madsen doesn’t take too kindly to this, nor does Brando or Drago (the guy who peaced Sean Connery in The Untouchables, by the way), and out breaks–you guessed it–a dance-fight. MJ emerges victorious, but not before semi-accidentally lighting the whole place on fire, although luckily Brando doesn’t seem to mind so much at this point (“Bing bang,” he quips to Jackson, appropos of absolutely nothing). He escapes in time, with girl in tow, and the two ride off with an irate Chris. Ultimately, “You Rock My World” had all the elements of a classic MJ story vid–big ol’ dance numbers, action sequences, cameos a plenty–but rather than feeling comfortable and nostalgic like a good throwback should, upon its premiere, it just served to underline how far he had come from the Michael Jackson the public knew and loved for most of the previous 30 years.

First off, the dude looks freaky. Maybe it’s the disease, maybe it’s the plastic surgery, maybe it’s the lifetime of horrific stress, pressure and abuse the likes of which none of us will hopefully ever have to properly contemplate–but there’s a reason why MJ’s hat is pulled over his eyes for 75% of the video. He’s almost entirely white by now (“That’s why I don’t like going to eat with black people, ‘coz when the bill comes, they start trippin’,” gripes Tucker at one point, to remind the audience that yes at one point MJ was a black man), and the combination of his big eyes and pale skin make him look more than a little ghoulish. He looks oddly ageless, which is disconcerting for a man now 40 years old. And his speaking voice makes him sound so delicate and weak that it’s no surprise the superhumanly loud-mouthed Tucker was enlisted to do most of the speaking for him.

The video’s not really any great shakes besides MJ himself, either. Say what you will about the corniness of the MJ videos of the last ten years, but most of them were at least visually compelling and a good deal of them had been legitimately innovative. This one is basically nothing but a rehashing of elements from “Smooth Criminal” and “The Way You Make Me Feel” with little of the charm of either, and there’s nary a morph-effect (or anything that could actually be considered boundary-pushing) to be found. And even by MJ video standards, the cameos are fairly useless–Tucker is predictably grating, Madsen does nothing but stand there and look badass, and Brando’s appearance makes his performance in The Score seem like Stanley Kowalski by comparison (particularly amusing is the video’s six-minute edit, in which Brando has literally one word’s worth of dialogue, a weakly mumbled “…now?“–wonder how many millions he got for that).

This is all unfortunate, because the “You Rock My World” song is a successful update of MJ’s sound to modern times in all the ways the video is not. Produced by MJ and Rodney “Darkchild” Jenkins (then on top of the pop world thanks to his work with Monica, J-Lo and Destiny’s Child), the song’s clearly no “Billie Jean” or “Rock With You,” but it’s a lithe, bouncy Pop n B number, with a nice piano hook that almost sounds like something out of 90s UK house and a chorus that sounds like…a normal pop chorus, without any of the insecurities, social messages or other uncomfortable moments that had been regrettably jam-packed into most recent MJ hits. It wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Usher’s 8701 album, and it certainly didn’t sound out of place in Top 40 radio back in 2001.

But with the albatross of a video attached to it, as well as MJ’s burgeoning race-fueled feud with Sony president Tommy Mottola, the song was only peaked at #10 on the charts–not a particularly strong showing from the man with the most solo #1 hits of anyone since Elvis. Then the weirdness started back up–the Mottola-devil campaign, the baby-dangling, and of course, the second round of sexual misdeed allegations, and the war of MJ’s music vs. his public freakiness had been decided for good. But with a different video, a less-publicized PR snafu…who knows? Maybe he could’ve gone without abdicating his King of Pop throne for at least a few years longer.

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OMGWTFLOL: “American Psycho”: The Musical

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 27, 2008

Don’t just stare at it, buy tickets for it

Psyche! Nope, it’s not a joke–Variety has officially reported that plans for a musical based on Brett Easton Ellis’s 1991 book American Psycho are in the works, though details are still fairly sketchy at the moment.  Most of us will of course recall Ellis’s work about the mass-murderous yuppie as filtered through the feminist directorial lens of Mary Harmon and the gloriously histrionic-laden lead performance of Christian Bale. The movie was not a particular critical or commercial success, but it followed a natural progression to cult status, eventually made one of the 21st century’s first great leading men out of Bale, and gave us at least a half-dozen quintessential O-Watchers in the process. And now, it’s giving us a brand new Broadway musical.

Now, the movie-turned-musical is not a particularly new phenomenon, and indeed, at least two of the biggest musical hits of the decade (The Producers and Spamalot) have come from cinematic source material. But those musicals seemed like far likelier fits for their film equivalents–for one thing, both Producers and Holy Grail already had musical numbers within the films, providing at least some sort of context for a musical adaptation to start with. And they were also comedies–loose, zany, fairly free-form comedies, ones that not only lent themselves to musical adaptation, but just to adaptation in general. American Psycho, on the other hand…well, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t funny, but certainly in a significantly darker, and much less transmutable way than these movies were.

My friend Lisa brought up perhaps the more appropriate example of the Evil Dead musical, which took a fairly gruesome source flick and turned its gore and horror into theater kitsch, replete with optional blood-spatter seating. But Evil Dead was already pretty kitschy to begin with (no horror movie with a tree-rape scene can ever be taken solely at face value), and especially with the increasing ridiculousness of the sequels, no one could possibly take offense at the movie not being taken seriously. American Psycho, on the other hand, while certainly far from being cheese-free (FEED ME STRAY CAT), does have a fair amount of satire and subtext to it that would be sort of hard to turn into song and dance, at least as it’s traditionally constituted.

Really, it’s kind of hard to imagine how songs get inserted into this at all. For one thing, who would possibly be given a song besides the Patrick Bateman character? Most of the best lines in the movie either come from Bateman’s thoughts or are taken from rants where Bateman is basically talking to himself. I mean, maybe the Willem Dafoe and Chloe Sevigny characters get a song each, but basically, this is a one-man show. And even if Bateman gets all the good numbers, how many Murder Ballads can you squeeze into one two-hour musical before getting somewhat redundant? Or do you just have lots of songs based on lines in the movie? “Murders & Executions”? “What Her Head Would Look Like On a Stick”? And of course, the big closing number, “I Have to Return Some Videotapes”?

Much room as there is for error here–and I was definitely not a fan of either Spamalot or The Producers–I am somewhat excited by this news. There’s something that’s just so inherently perverse, so incredibly wrong-seeming about the whole thing, that it can really only be a huge disaster or a huge success, both of which are wins in my book. More potential for an interesting evening out than Xanadu, at least. And probably as much nudity as Spring Awakening.

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OMGWTFLOL: The Killers – “Human” (2008)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 23, 2008

C’mon baby dry your eyes

The Killers have to be one of the more intriguing popular rock bands of the last decade. They came up in modern rock at a time when the genre’s doors were more open to freak hits and alternative anomalies since bands like Spacehog, Primitive Radio Gods and the Butthole Surfers were breaking into the mainstream back in 1996. Modest Mouse, Franz Ferdinand and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs had three of 2004’s biggest rock hits, and even The Darkness achieved Rock Gods status for about seven and a half minutes. Nu-metal was almost completely stagnant, pop-punk was dying with Blink-182, and the reign of Fall Out Boy was still at least six months away. Meanwhile, out of Vegas comes The Killers, with synths, big pop hooks, and thanks to a trio of videos directed by Brett Simon, Sophie Muller and Anton Corbijn, unmistakable glamour–three qualities almost entirely absent from the entire post-grunge era in rock up until that point.

While the rest of their underground-approved brethren’s mainstream commercial fortunes unsurprisingly faded after their breakout hits, The Killers have done a fairly impressive job of hanging on and lingering in the public’s consciousness. They had the three megahits off Hot Fuss (“Somebody Told Me,” “Mr. Brightside” and “All These Things That I’ve Done”) whose extended play on TV (not just the video channels, but in primetime dramas and even a couple commercials) kept the band in the limelight almost until the release of Sam’s Town. It looked like the sophomore slump might’ve hit The Killers after “When You Were Young” peaked a little earlier than expected and follow-up “Bones” performed predictably miserably, but third single “Read My Mind” had the same slow-burn commercial effect as “All These Things,” and the band was right back in the thick of it–if by now firmly out of the running for Biggest Band in the World status.

This is all mostly notable because while the band arguably has the least raw talent of any of the bands previously mentioned (not counting the Primitive Radio Gods), they also easily have the greatest ambitions. And while it’s tempting to say that The Killers’ ambitions further exceed their grasp than any band since Jesus Jones, I think a more accurate statement would be to say that The Killers ambitions are simply the least in line with their abilities of any band at the moment. They love Bruce Springsteen, but they’re an abysmal live act and don’t understand the first thing about street poetry. They idolize David Bowie, but sound awkward and confused singing come-ons. They wanna be as important as U2, but don’t care about anything in particular. Basically, they sound big without in any way actually being big–which would be totally fine if The Killers were OK with being the next Duran Duran or Def Leppard, but for whatever reason, the band seems to crave credibility beyond those highly respectable, and far more appropriate, comparisons.

So it’s a little surprising to me to see the band return with “Human,” a song which all but sheds the band’s American Dream aspirations from Sam’s Town in favor of a dance sound much closer to the Pet Shop Boys. House fans and blog afficianados are unlikely to be completely blindsided by this, as they will no doubt recall Jacques Lu Cont’s deservedly acclaimed remix of “Mr. Brightside,” or PSB’s very own Stars are Blazing remix of “Read My Mind,” both of which showed the enormous pop potential of The Killers when removed from any sort of Rock Star trappings (not that all the ingredients weren’t there to begin with, but still). It’s a risky move, especially because singer Brandon Flowers still apparently feels burdened by the pressure of greatness (“Everything is at stake on this album,” he’s said), but since the entire album is produced by JLC himself, it’s likely that all his chips are being placed on house being the style to take the band to the next level.

And, well…ouch. 95% of the beefs people have with The Killers are in some way based around the band’s lyrics, and indeed, the band has always sort of sank or swam with their cringeworthiness. Usually, they can hobble together a mixture of enough rock catch-alls (“Destiny is calling me,” “We’re burning down the highway skyline”), aurally satisfying tongue twisters (“Never thought I’d let a rumor ruin my moonlight,” “You know, you know, no you don’t, you don’t”) non-sensically vivid imagery (“The stars are blazing like rebel diamonds cut out from the sun,” “Jealousy, turning saints into the sea”) and unbelievably catchy phrases that mean remarkably little (“He doesn’t look a thing like Jesus,” “I got soul but I’m not a soldier”) that you can sort of gloss over the songs’ general lack of comprehension or significance. But when they can’t, you get “Bones.” And “Human” makes “Bones” look like “Tangled Up in Blue.”

OK, I can’t write any more of this article without addressing this point right here and now–the main lyrical hook in “Human” is the following:

“Are we human? / Or are we dancer? / My sign is vital / My hands are cold.”

There are no typos in that second phrase. Oh, sure, the critics are already insising on it, and the album’s lyric sheet will no doubt back it up, but take it from me, the phrase is “Or are we dancer?” Listen to the song if you must, and if you can hear Brandon Flowers put an “s” sound at the end of “dancer,” congratulations, you’re even more self-delusional than I am. He even rhymes the phrase with the word “answer” in the song’s next line, when saying “answers” would’ve made just as much sense. No matter what anyone says in the song’s ensuing fallout, it’s a fucking fact: The Killers are banking their ever-huge commercial aspirations on the question “Are we human / Or are we dancer?

Not that “or are we dancers” would’ve made the song that much more bearable. Even with the correct grammar, it’d still be one of the bigger lyrical atrocities in a song where such gaffes pop up like marshmallows in a bowl of Lucky Charms. Couplets like “Pay my respectes to grace and virtue / Send my condolences to good.” Phrases like “The platform of surrender.” Apostrophes like “So long to devotion / You taught me everything I know.” Observations like “And sometimes I get nervous / when I see an open door.” But even if the verses were on the level of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” any hope the song had of flight would be firmly grounded by the ton of bricks that is the chorus, a clunker to end all lyrical clunkers.

In the Hot Fuss days, at least there’d be majesty enough in the music that you could usually look past the blunder of the lyrics–the insignificance of whatever “Open up my eager eyes / ‘Coz I’m Mr. Brightside” means is far outweighed by the significance of the way the song’s swooping bass line connects with the shimmering synths and cascading guitar line to conjure up memories of prime New Order (who, by the way, weren’t always 100% malady-free in their lyrics either). In “Human,” though, I’m not sure if it’s that the music isn’t catchy enough, or that it’s simply impossible to think about anything else once you get an enigma like “Are we human? / Or are we dancer?” stuck in your head, but three or four listens in and I still don’t have a clue how this song even goes. Maybe those ill-conceived rock star trappings were there for a reason after all.

Frankly, I suppose we should be thankful that The Killers stayed on the bearable side of cringeworthiness for as long as they did–five potential classics-to-be is almost enough to build a solid hits compilation around, which is all anyone should’ve asked out of the band in the first place. Still, it’s hard not to feel a twinge of regret that the band couldn’t ride it out a little while longer–Duran Duran and Def Leppard might not ever be mentioned on the same level as legitimate rock legends Bruce Springsteen or U2, but they’re first-tier, hall of fame pop bands without a doubt, and it would’ve been nice to have been able to include The Killers in their company. But unless the next single is “Hungry Like the Wolf” times “Photograph,” and with a better video than both…I think we’re pretty much done here.

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Commercial Break / OMGWTFLOL: The Creepiest Hair Care Ad in History

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 19, 2008

Suddenly those orgasmic Herbal Essences commercials seem so innocuous

Just For Men’s ad campaigns recently have been pretty weird in general. There’s the hippie-baiting one that seems to suggest that being able to play guitar and basketball makes you an immortal. There’s the surreal rhyming one where an uninvited Keith Hernandez and Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier berate a poor, defenseless and apparently senile Emmitt Smith for having subpar facial hair. But props gotta go to Victor on this one for tipping me as to what a horrifying, skin-crawling commercial this one (labeled on YouTube as “Daddy’s Girls”) is. It’s not creepy in that cool, Lynchian way all those recent, warped Starburst and Skittles ads have been, either. It’s just emotionally disconcerting, in a way you never thought a hair coloring ad could possibly be.

“Dad? It’s time.” Two oh-so-precious daughters approach their father, who probably thinks that the girls need to be driven to their clarinet lessons or something. But these are not your ordinary, self-centered young daughters, obsessed with their BeJewlers and their posters of Cutting Crew and the like. It becomes clear, as they present their father with a Just For Men box, that they have loftier goals in mind. “You’d make a really nice catch for somebody!” the younger and cuter of the daughters squeaks. Just in case they’ve yet to do a sufficient job of selling their dad on hair-coloring, they unleash the final dagger, a heart-piercing, in unison “PLEEEEEEAAAAAASSSSSSE?????” Soon, Dad is shown on a date with some mystery woman in a purple dress, and texts the girls a pic of him and chick smiling together. “YESSSS!!!” the girls exclaim, high-fiving.

The number of eye-widening, bone-chilling implications in this ad are almost too numerous to list. First, it seems pretty clear that these kids’ mother is dead, right? I mean, I guess technically you could argue that Mom and Dad are divorced, but there’s no way the kids would’ve stayed so sweet and naive, and no way Dad would seem so stoically true, were that the case. For whatever reason, it’s clearly been a long time since Dad was in the game, so Mom’s definitely been out of picutre in one way or another since these kids were in pre-school. And now these kids are so wanting for some sort of maternal influence in their household that the one thing they want for Christmas is for Dad to snap out of his relationship funk and go get himself (and, presumably, them) a woman.

And what do they single out as the one area in which Dad is so insufficient, so sorely lacking, that it would no doubt increase his mating chances infinityfold to improve? Why, his hair color, of course. So much for the dignified salt and pepper look, I suppose–clearly, if there’s one thing the single ladies of the world absolutely will not tolerate in a widower with two kids, it’s a grey mane. Normally, this would be the moment when the father sits his daughters down, and tells them “Girls, I love you, but there’s just some things about adult relationships you won’t be able to understand until you’re a little bit older.” But instead of that scene, Dad apparently views his little angels as acceptably knowledgeable relationship consiglieres, and takes their advice.

Naturally, he is instantly able to land himself a purple-dressed catch–or at least, to go on a single date with her. For all we know, this is their first time meeting, and the two girls might never have even met this mysterious woman (it’s not like we see a proposal or a ring or anything). But so desperate are these girls for a mommy that any old vagina off the streets will apparently do just fine, and it’s a high-five, “YESSSSSS!!“-worthy moment of celebration. And all of it, of course, is due to Just For Men, without which Dad would’ve certainly been a hideous wretch of firmly undateable proportions. Just be thankful that it wasn’t an Enzyte commercial, I guess.

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OMGWTFLOL: Presidents of the United States of America – “Lump” (1995)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 15, 2008

Is this song out of my head?

“When my kids ask what the 90s were like, I’ll just play them this song” were my words upon completing my first run through “Lump” on vocals in Rock Band 2 today (don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll have a full-er article on that one sometime later on). Back in the mid-90s, the Presidents were certainly all the rage, but now, it’s very, very hard to remember why this was. To say that they couldn’t have happened in any other decade would be something of an understatement–I think it was more like they were the living emobdiement of the excess fat of 90s culture, such a seemingly pointless cultural artifact that I’d even hesitate to refer to them as a band. Yes, “Peaches” was an OK song, but mostly because of the outro and the unexpected twist in the accompanying video. Beyond that, it’s all just bubble-over from the irony decade.

Listening to “Lump” for the first time in at least a half-decade, I was left unbelievably cold. It’s a song that just doesn’t do or mean anything. The lyrics appear to be designed to leave no impression whatsoever–non-sensical in their storytelling, quirky but not funny, so muddled in tone that it almost feels contradictory. They don’t even bother to rhyme correctly some of the time (“Mud flowed up into Lump’s pajamas / She totally confused all the passing piranhas”). And listen to the Wiki analysis of the song’s meaning:

The song gives a seemingly nonsensical description of a girl named or nicknamed “Lump”, from the point of view of someone who knew her personally (someone who may have been in love with her). Lump is, during the song, lying in a swamp. It is uncertain whether she is catatonic, unconscious, or dying. Her life, as it is described, seemed to have been a wasted one. She was probably either unintelligent or had possibly suffered mental deficiency from heavy consumption of alcohol or drugs, though the latter isn’t stated explicitly. It is also implied that Lump was sexually promiscuous.

So basically, the song is about someone named Lump, who is either alive or dead, and is probably sung by someone who knew her. Yeah, sounds about right.

Musically, you’re not given too much more to work with. It’s catchy, but not too catchy, memorable but sort of irritating, fast and rocking but certainly not to be confused with anythign resembling punk, and ultimately too short to be anything conclusive. Both versions of the video, too–the one where they’re singing in a “boggy marsh” (making the video appropriate for the song’s first five seconds and totally pointless after that) or the one above where they’re performing in silhouette, mixed with concert footage and shots of random people lip synching the chorus (apparently deemed too “dark and disturbing” for MTV, which is pathetic by just about any standards). It’s all just…nothing.

But hey, in a very real way, that was the 90s. Not everything was good. Not everything was bad. Sometimes stuff just existed, with no real cause or effect to be easily associated with it. This was the decade of alternative rock, after all, and alternative rock occasionally meant just that–rock that, for better, worse, or for nothing at all, just didn’t feel like all the other stuff. And that was OK. We didn’t have to like “Lump” for it to be popular. Sometimes American culture just decides that it’s time for a couple smart-looking but largely talentless musical pranksters to have a big national hit or two, about nothing, for no particular reason. And the 90s was the decade for the Presidents. And dear lord I hope that no one born afterwards ever has to hear them again.

Except for my eventual kids, of course–as the pop culture tastemakers and standard-bearers of the future, they need to know about these things so future generations are not doomed to make the same mistakes.

(Oh, and just because I know SOMEONE is gonna mention it, yes I am aware of the existence of a Mr. Weird Al Yankovic and that he happened to make a Forrest Gump-related parody of this song with an unsurprising title. It is perhaps the only Yankovic parody in existence to be LESS pointless than the song it is satirizing.)

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