I recorded then watched Channel 4’s ‘X Rated: The Pop Videos They Tried to Ban’ the other day, and spent much of it’s duration begging Jayne Middlemiss (unfair to single her out, and hardly new to pick on TV talking heads but never mind) to actually venture her own opinion for once rather than just stating the obvious as if it was somehow learned rather than just basic observaton.
But when Jayne did manage to state a view with what seemed like a shred of actual ‘this is what I – not the producers – think, actually’ emotion, I just felt even more embarassed for her and the programme. The view in question amounted to indignation regarding the video for Prodigy’s ‘Smack My Bitch Up’. More interesting than the video (meh) was JM’s minor outburst, the lingering camera only serving to accentuate the pompousness of it all, and the sense of pre-meditation. Do the programme-makers use the likes of Middlemiss and Gina Yashere i.e. TV presenters with no apparent knowledge of the subject they are discussing other than the press clippings or videotapes they may have seen just before filming, because they want to make them look stupid?
The shrewd editing of 2 Live Crew’s Luther Campbell so that he appeared just as conservative and hypocritical (deeming TATU ‘sick’ etc.) as the buffoons who petitioned to have his material banned from record stores in the 80s also a case in point. If so then this would be the only thing I learned from the predictably but still disappointingly banal look at naughty music videos. Other ‘revelations’ (Trent Reznor obsessed with S&M, Jonas Akerlund ‘not’ out to cause controversy, rock stars and rappers equal in exhibiing violent and misogynystic behaviour alongside a penchant for titillation, duh) all second hand. Too bad they couldn’t get a word from Pharrell on the supposed rationale of N.E.R.D.’s ‘Lapdance’ video (the naked women representing politicians, obviously – but that’s old news too I guess).
Paul Morley may get tired of describing the chaotic abandon that accompanied Frankie’s glorious rise to the top of the charts, but it’s always fun to portray the early 1980s as footloose and fanciful – nobody really seeming to understand the exciting new music video genre at the time, but figuring that adding breasts or cunning allusions to sordid sexual acts would be enough to get tongues wagging, eyes goggling and sales soaring. Somehow it worked then, but the cynical and relatively lazy approach of C4’s retrospective evening-fillers ends up only entertaining by default but largely unsatisfying. And afterwards? Not the music videos themselves in all their assorted glory but a repeat of Bo Selecta (breasts and cunning allusions to sordid sexual acts – but without decent tunes over the top, bah). How about a new series of Mirrorball instead? Please?