Rank the Videos: HIM 2001 – 2005

Before saying goodbye to HIM, I’m looking back at their videos an ranking them from best to worst. In the second part, we look at their videos from the Love Metal to Dark Light era. While most of their early videos were rough and kind of hard to watch, they improved by the time HIM had their American break. The videos still aren’t perfect, as you’ll see from the Bam Margera directed ones, but they’re visually pleasing and more creative than their previous efforts. Some attempt to tell stories while others are more shameless Ville eye candy. So, let’s take a look at HIM’s videos from 2001 – 2005 ranked from best to worst. Where does your favorite video land?

“Wings of a Butterfly” (2005)

Directed by Meiert Avis, this is HIM’s most stylish video. Filmed in Los Angeles’ Union Station, the clip opens with their iconic heartagram circling the night skies like the bat signal. We then travel up to a tower where the band performs in a dark location and Ville plays with random equipment that may have come from a mad scientist. The video ends with Ville on top of the tower as it’s submerged in water. Not only is the video filled with cool shots, it has an overlay of grainy effects making it look like lost footage or an old movie. It’s definitely their most visually pleasing video to date and remains a highlight in their videography.

“Buried Alive By Love” (2003)

This is the first of four videos Bam Margera would direct for HIM. Set in a lavish LA theater, HIM performs on stage while actor Juliette Lewis watches from the wings. She starts to give Ville some coy looks and start a game of cat and mouse. They finally meet up and walk out the theater hand and hand. Simple concept, but it looks really cool. Not only is the setting beautiful, the clip has this grainy, super 8 quality to it giving it a vintage feel. Though it’s a notable HIM video there are some awkward shots, like Ville looking sick when the camera is spinning around him or how he outstretches his arms with dead eyes not really sure what to do with himself.

“The Funeral of Hearts” (2003)

HIM traverse the icy landscapes of Sweden encountering strange, mythical people along the way in this clip. The first video from the Love Metal period is strange, yet beautiful. Of course, there are the gratuitous shots of Ville looking adorable in his trademark beanie and eyeliner. Along with this are shots of mysterious tribespeople covered in different colors looking like they’re conducting some sort of ritual. You can’t really tell what’s going on, but it’s this enigmatic air that makes the video so intriguing. You want to piece together the story and since HIM doesn’t spell it out for you, it’s open to various interpretations. The video ends with an amazing shot of the heartagram made out of burning bushes. Though after that is a shot of the album, which is lame.

“The Sacrament” (2004)

I still considered this my favorite song and video by HIM. Directed again by Bam Margera, the video is a mix of HIM performing in what looks like a grand mansion and a lonely woman longing over the loss of Ville. It’s straightforward, but there’s something beautiful in the cold scenery and the simplicity of it. Though this is the point where Margera’s video staples come through: saturated colors making Ville as white as a ghost, multiple shots of Ville walking by himself with a brooding look on his face, and a woman sitting on an ornate couch waiting for her lover. And just like the prior video, there are some questionable shots here, like one of Ville’s crotch. Watching this again it’s clear Margera isn’t the best director. He’s a skateboarder, so no one really expects him to be. Him directing these videos were his way of doing something for his friends and being associated with the band, which he seemed to badly want.

“In Joy and Sorrow” (2001)

 This is the best video from the Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights era. It starts off as a simple performance clip with plenty of sexy Ville to look at. As the band keeps performing, the lights and equipment around them begin to freak out and emit a  blinding light, including Ville’s mic. It seems the spirit of a (dead?) lover is the cause of this as we see for a brief second. By the end, her apparition appears next to Ville who just keeps on singing. Directed by John Hillcoat, the video is pleasing to watch. Not a lot happens, but the light tricks and Ville’s cool illuminated mic makes it stand out from typical performance clips. Also, this is when Ville cemented his go-to look: long stringy hair, thick eye makeup, silver bands, and the “Your pretty face is going to hell” coat. This is the Ville millions of HIM fans would eventually fall for, myself included.

“And Love Said No” (2004)

The final video directed by Bam Margera feels like a random collage with no theme. The clip is filled with various shots of Ville outside and inside of a church along with random graphics and effects. Some of these shots are beautiful, like Ville singing in the forest or the heartagarm that seemingly appears out of thin air. Other shots look horribly dated and weird, like calligraphy flourishes that weave in between the band or the fading shots and swirls appearing in random places. It seems Margera wanted to go for a notebook feel since the video closes with a book shutting, but he doesn’t pull it off. Again, not a terrible video, but not very satisfying.

“Solitary Man” (2004)

Yet another video directed by Bam Margera. At least it’s an improvement over his previous efforts. Still, it’s nothing too special. It’s primarily a performance video mixed in with recycled footage from Margera’s Haggard movie previously seen in “Heartache Every Moment.” There’s also new footage of a random woman strutting around in her underwear. The video doesn’t do too much but does offer fan service since Ville is singing sans shirt. It’s not a terrible clip, but it’s pretty unremarkable. At least Margera opted to focus on the entire band instead of only extreme close-ups of Ville.

“Heartache Every Moment” (2001)

This is your standard live performance video. It shows various clips of the band in concert mainly focusing on Ville Valo with some occasional shots of the crowd. Multiple clips playing at the same time along with a run through of all of the band’s symbols try to shake things up, but it’s still a vanilla video. Skater and Ville Valo wannabe Bam Margera directed a second version which features a different live performance from the band mixed with clips from his Haggard movie. It’s slightly more entertaining because you’re watching a condensed episode of Viva La Bam. Anyone else think Margera’s love of HIM was a bit weird? He even names himself Valo in the movie. Better watch out, Ville. You could have a Single White Female situation on your hands.

“Close to the Flame” (2002)

Yes, it’s another boring live performance clip. HIM “performs” the song in a darkened venue with a funnel of smoke streaming out of Ville’s mouth. Throw in some customary shots of the band on stage and that’s the whole video. To make it even worse it doesn’t even feature a live version of the song. It’s just the studio version pumped out over footage of a live performance. If the video was actually them playing the song in concert, it had a chance to be more interesting. As it is, it’s just boring especially since the band doesn’t do much on stage.

There are only a few more videos left to cover. Come back next month for the third and final part of Rank the Videos when we look at HIM’s videos from 2005 – 2013.

 

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Playlist: Stupid Songs that We All Loved

It’s easy for people to look at music today and claim it was better way back when. But they seem to forget there was a lot of questionable music back then too. Eras like the 80s and 90s were filled with tons of terrible songs, yet at the time, they were hits. Now, we recognize them are bad songs or “guilty pleasure,” but when they were first released they were popular despite how dumb they were. So let’s look back at stupid songs we all loved at one point.

“Achy Breaky Heart” – Billy Ray Cyrus

Though this song is now known as one of the worst songs of all time, it was actually a hit when it came out in 1992. Originally titled “Don’t Tell My Heart” it was first performed by The Marcy Brothers in 1991 but didn’t get much airplay. It wasn’t until Billy Ray Cyrus recorded his own version that the song exploded. It reached the number one spot on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs and peaked at number four on the Hot 100. And yes, I even liked it when I was a kid. It’s one of those song’s that’s terrible but has an earworm hook that burrows its way into your brain. It’s pretty bad with the stupid hook and Cyrus’ faux accent. For the longest time, we thought this was the worst thing Cyrus would give to the world. Boy, were we wrong.

“I’m Too Sexy” – Right Said Fred

Released in 1991, UK duo Right Said Fred earned a number one hit with this ridiculous song about being so sexy “it hurts.” What started as a joke between the two Fairbrass brothers turned into an international chart-topping single. The track makes fun of the superficiality and narcissism of being a supermodel. It’s another one of those songs that’s so stupid you end up liking it. You gotta admit, the opening line of “I’m too sexy for my shirt” is kind of hard to forget. Now considered one of the worst song’s of the 90s, it’s something most of would rather forget was ever a thing.

“Higher” – Creed

Creed is one of those bands no one wants to admit they liked at one point. Sort of like Limp Bizkit. Before becoming of the music’s biggest jokes, they were one of the most successful acts of the late 90s. This song, along with the sappy “With Arms Wide Open” helped their second album, Human Clay, reach platinum status eleven times. Kind of disturbing when you think about it. This pseudo rock song was inescapable when it first came out. It was all over the radio and the lame video received lots of airplay on MTV. Listening to it now, it’s hard to think how anyone took this song seriously. Frontman Scott Stapp sounds like he has a sinus infection while singing and though the band denied their religious connotations, it’s pretty easy to hear all over this song.

“Blue” – Effiel 65

There are some songs whose origin and popularity can’t be explained. Why the hell was Effiel 65’s “Blue” a chart topping hit in 1999? We still have no idea. With a generic dance beat, the most memorable lyric in the mindless “da bee dee da” the singer keeps mumbling over and over. The rest of the lyrics are baffling as the singer goes onto talk about having a blue girlfriend, house, and dog. Why blue? Is he literally blue or is this supposed to be a clumsy metaphor? These are questions we’ll probably never have answers for. Even though the song is terrible, you couldn’t but singing it whenever it played. As a kid, I thought the song was weird, yet would happily sing it in the car whenever it came on.

“Rico Suave” – Gerardo

Everyone talks about how awful today’s music is and how things were better in the 80s and 90s. But then you remember a dark time in 1990 when Gerardo gave us the travesty that is “Rico Suave.” Looking back at it, it seems like a bad joke: the cringy lyrics, the mindless hook, and the questionable mariachi band in the video. While it never hit number one, it did reach as high at number two on Billboard’s Hot Rap Track and number seven on the Hot 100. The song is unbelievably bad making you question who actually bought it when it came out. While it can be a fun song to take the piss out of when hanging out with definitely not something you listen to for pleasure.

“Barbie Girl” – Aqua

This is one of those songs that could only exist in the 90s. In 1997, Danish group Aqua dropped this annoying song on the unsuspecting masses. And it took off. Supposedly a commentary poking fun at the superficiality of the doll, it’s a song you hate to get stuck in your head. The hook manages to be infectious, yet completely annoying. Her voice is too squeaky, while the guy’s faux gruffness comes off as slightly creepy. The single charted number one around the world and even caught the ire of Mattel, who later tried to sue the band. When this song came out, I remember teachers trying to ban us from singing it because it was supposedly dirty. And then someone went and made the Ken song, which all the boys in class loved singing.

“Party All the Time” – Eddie Murphy

Hot off the heels of Beverly Hills Cop, someone convinced Eddie Murphy to get in the recording booth and make this stupid song. The sad thing is as dumb as it is, it’s really catchy. Part of that has to do with the inane repetitive hook and the help of funk master Rick James. Listening to the song and watching Murphy trying so hard in the recording booth, you’d think it was an elaborate joke. That’s probably what people were hoping. Unfortunately, it was all too real and even led Murphy to record an album. And it was a commercial success. Murphy tried to have another hit single in the 90s with “Whaazup with You” with some help from Michael Jackson. While Jackson saves the song a little bit, it’s more atrocious than this. At least it gave us a killer Children of Bodom cover.

“Ice Ice Baby” -Vanilla Ice

Vanilla Ice is a hard phenomenon to explain today. Looking back at his biggest hit, it’s clearly bad. It’s one of those songs hipsters like ironically. But back in 1990, Rob van Winkle was the hottest rapper around. This song, which stole the riff from “Under Pressure” and led to a hilarious Vanilla Ice moment, graced the top of the charts around the world making his international debut To The Extreme, a success. It sold 15 million copies and spent 16 weeks at the top of the Billboard 200. A short time later, people realized the song was dumb and Vanilla Ice was pretty lame. It didn’t help that Jim Carey poked fun at him and his lame dance moves in a great In Living Color sketch.

“Macarena” – Los del Rio

We all knew this was coming, so let’s get it over with it. The Macarena was one of those inexplicable fads of the 90s. What started out as an obscure dance song soon exploded around the world thanks to the stupid dance associated with the song. Soon the dance was being done at proms, weddings, and in your mom’s backyard. The best videos on America’s Funniest Home Videos were Macarena failures. It prompted several parodies, including a memorable one from the Animaniacs. It was so popular my school even made kids in an assembly do it on stage. Soon, the fad died out with slap bracelets, frosted tips, and JNCO Jeans. But with so many 90s trends coming back into fashion, maybe this duo is prime for a comeback. Let’s hope not.

“The Safety Dance” – Men Without Hats

Play this song for someone under 20 now and they’d probably wonder if it was a joke. Listening to the song and watching the weird video now, it’s still not all that clear if it is a joke. Written about bouncers trying to stop kids from pogo dancing in clubs, the song is baffling. The lyrics are weird with the odd yet memorable line “we can dance/we can dance/everyone look at your hands” while the music sounds like it was inspired by a Renaissance Fair. It’s one of the weirdest songs from the 80s, yet it was successful. It reached the top spot on Billboard’s Hot Club Play and peaked at number three on the Hot 100. And to think, for years people thought it was a song about safe sex.

“Watch Me” – Silento

Dance crazes are something the world should’ve left behind with the “Cha Cha Slide.” But somehow we all get swept up in them when a new one pops up every few years. When Silento hit the scene with “Watch Me” everyone from your mom to Jimmy Fallon started singing the mindless song. The track is nothing but different hip-hop dances phrases (Stanky Legg, Crank That) mashed together repeatedly throughout. And no matter how hard you try, it’s almost impossible not to “whip” and “nae nae” when you hear it. Even the Nickelodeon remix was catchy. I had to change the channel every time it came on so it wouldn’t get stuck in my head. It’s by no means good, but with a simple chorus and fun music, the song is hard to ignore even if you hate it. The track ended up in the number three spot on the Billboard Hot 100 where it stayed for six consecutive weeks. Thankfully, people seem to have forgotten the dance, but it makes me wary for the next dance craze.

“What the Fox Say” – Ylvis

This is one of those rare instances where an obviously terrible song turns into a big hit. Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis recorded “What the Fox Say” as an “anti-hit” for their comedy show Tonight With Ylvis. It didn’t take long for the video to hit Youtube and explode all over the internet. It was a song designed to be terrible and hilarious, yet it turned out to be successful. It’s reached platinum status in the States and peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is nothing but random noises and generic dance music, proving that the internet gets obsessed with the weirdest things. Since the song was everywhere, I couldn’t find the humor in it and just found it to be another mindless, terrible song. Luckily, the duo said they don’t have plans to make a sequel.

There are more lovably stupid songs out there, so which ones did I miss? Which of these songs is your guilty pleasure? Let me know in the comments!

Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker

Moonwalker is a weird, ambitious project by Michael Jackson. Released in 1988, the video is a collection of short segments all featuring Jackson. There’s no continuous narrative; just a lot of weirdness. The singer wanted the movie to be screened in theaters, but the budget fell through and was released straight to video instead. A video game of the same name was also released as a tie-in, but that’s for another day. To celebrate Jackson’s 59th birthday I wanted to look back on this movie, which is still one of my favorites.

It used to fill up many bored afternoons when I was a kid and it’s still something I love watching today. Whenever I need a good laugh or just want to smile, I put this on and get lost in Jackson’s weird, wonderful world for a little bit. It’s full of flaws and portions of it are ridiculous as hell, but it’s charming and a lot of fun. It’s hard to imagine this doing well in theaters since there really isn’t a plot. It’s more like a collection of segments all involving Jackson. Still, it’s an interesting project that reminds us what a visionary he was.

The film starts with a powerful performance of “Man in the Mirror” making you think that it’s a concert film. Then it goes straight into the best part, the retrospective. Following Jackson from the Jackson 5 all the way up to Bad, it’s a fun, creative look back at the music and career defining moments. This part has always been my favorite for the popping effects, different animation styles, and the great energy. Highlights include a Claymation Jackson 5 singing “ABC,” a stop-motion robot joining Jackson on “Dancing Machine,” a mini “Human Nature” video, and a creepy ode to “Ben.” Throughout, we also see related memorabilia, award ceremonies, and magazine covers showing what a big deal the singer was at his peak.

Once we reach the Bad era, we see condensed versions of “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Dirty Diana” before getting to ”Badder.” The strange segment features a bunch of kids recreating the “Bad” video with scary accuracy. This has always been another one of my favorite parts. I still love separating the good kids from those who just don’t have it (looking at you midriff kid). Did we need kids to recreate this video? No, but it’s charming and cute. Try not cracking up at the ten-year old with a five o’clock shadow.

Once mini-Jackson is done with his dance off, adult Jackson returns and proceeds to be chased down by weird, unsettling big headed people. Again, a very weird part of the film, but it’s a blast to watch. Even Jackson looks like he’s having a good time with a big smile rarely leaving his face. While on the run, he runs into a talking Statue of Liberty, chubby twin bikers who he’s clearly disgusted by, Stephen Spielberg losing his shorts, and a bunch of screaming fans. It’s a creative romp taking the piss out of Hollywood and obsessive fandom.

So how does Jackson make it out of this situation? With the help of his friend, Spike. He suits up as a Jackson-esque bunny and leads into the “Speed Demon” video. This is where the Claymation shines. Spike turns into different celebrities of the era, like Pee Wee, Tina Turner, and Sylvester Stallone. And there are clever jokes throughout the segment, like a stop at “Frank in a Box” named after his manager Frank DiLeo and even Jack Nicholson in the car chasing him. The video ends with a memorable dance off between Spike and Jackson. Yes, the whole thing is weird, but it’s imaginative. You get so sucked into the world you don’t even question how a bunny costume came to life. It perfectly shows off the child-like wonder Jackson often flaunted throughout his life.

After an interlude featuring the stop-motion “Leave Me Alone” video, we get to the extended “Smooth Criminal” segment. Sigh. Even as a kid I never really liked this part. Though the segment does look pretty slick, it’s confusing, poorly acted, and makes no sense. It follows Jackson and a group of homeless kids as they go up against Mr. Big (Joe Pesci) because Jackson found his drug den…or something. It’s not really clear why Mr. Big is trying to kill him. Also, it’s never clear what kind of world we’re in. Why are the kids homeless? Where are all the other adults? Why exactly does Mr. Big want to get kids high? And we can’t ignore that Jackson is somehow magical in this world. During the video, he turns into a car, a rocket ship, and a giant fucking robot. And the kids never find this strange. They go along with it as if it’s not weird for a man to turn into a fucking car.

They’re also never sure how to feel about Jackson. At one point he’s their friend and are concerned with finding him. When Katie finds him and points it out the other kids respond “so?” When he turns into a robot they act a little surprised but never bother to bring it up again. And when he flies over them as the rocket ship at the end, they say “Bye Michael” as if he just got on a bus. And let’s not forget how Club 30 is an abandoned, dusty place when the kids find it. But Jackson walks in and it’s a hopping bar from the 20s, which he proceeds to start trouble in. What exactly is going on here?

After defeating Mr. Big and his faceless soldiers, Jackson comes back after Katie makes a wish and whisks the kids away to a precarious backstage area with sparking plugs never explaining to the kids what the fuck just happened. Suddenly, he’s on stage performing “Come Together” in front of John Lennon’s kid. What is even happening? No bothers to pull him aside and say “Michael, what are you exactly?” The kids just take it as is and we’re supposed to say “this is fine.”

Honestly, it was hard to sit through this segment again. The entire time I wanted to skip straight to “Smooth Criminal” and turn off the rest. While I was willing to never question anything in the first segments, I couldn’t suspend my disbelief here. Perhaps if there was a flowing story to follow it wouldn’t be so bad. But there is little explanation for anything we see. The “Smooth Criminal” video itself is great, minus the weird breakdown, but the “story” around it is mind boggling. Jackson isn’t the worst actor, but he’s by no means amazing. The highlight is when he turns into the ultimate transformer. The special effects haven’t aged all that well, but there’s something about it that’s still unsettling, especially when he starts shooting crotch rockets. Otherwise, it plays out like bad drug trip starring the King of Pop.

Moonwalker is a unique, yet weird experience tailor made for Jackson fans. For casual fans or anyone who doesn’t like him, it looks like a vain, unintelligible film. It’s a long ad for the Bad album, fans will find it a fun trek through Jackson’s career and his imagination. While the first half of the movie shows off the creative flair the singer had videos, even though it all falls apart with the bigger “story.” It makes sense for Jackson to come up with something so bonkers because it sounds like something a ten-year-old would dream up. This is a movie you don’t take seriously. You’re there to enjoy the cool visuals, Jackson’s dancing, and the kick ass music. If you take it for what it is, you’ll find an anthology that’s a blast to watch especially with friends.

Rank the Videos: HIM 1996 – 2001

I was taken aback when HIM announced their breakup. As I explained before, they were never the most important band in my life, but I’ve followed them for so long it’s like saying goodbye to an old friend. I immersed myself in the band shortly after the news, similar to many fans and soon I came upon their videos. I never thought they had the best music videos, but there are a handful I always loved. Some are outright terrible, but others are charming even if they are strictly fan service.

Before seeing them one last time in fall, I wanted to look back at all their videos and rank them from best to worst.

“Join Me (In Death)” (2000)

HIM’s biggest song received four different videos with the “ice version” being the most popular. Ville and crew find themselves in the middle of an ice palace performing what turned out to be their breakout song. This clip, directed by John Hillcoat, gets to the heart of the track, which is about Romeo and Juliet. Ville is a smoldering Romeo at the peak of his glam rockstar phase. A mysterious heavy coated woman plays Juliet, who meets her demise by drinking poison. The entire thing takes place in an ice cave and even members are shown freezing over. Just watching the video makes you shiver. With its cool imagery and Ville’s good looks, the video has since become iconic within the HIM fandom. It’s definitely a fan favorite and one that helped the band break into US mainstream charts. The only thing that bothered me was how uncomfortable the woman looked. She’s wearing a barbed wire outfit and it looks like she’s trying hard to keep it together. Aside from Ville’s eye shadow, it’s the most distracting thing in the video.

 

“Wicked Game” (UK Version) (2000)

The third, and best, video for “Wicked Game” finds Ville having the worst night of his life. Cold and wet from the rain, he’s convinced to warm up in a strip club. While he starts having a good time watching the dancer on stage, he gets his wallet stolen, his drink ruined, starts a fight, and ends up being kicked out of the club. The other HIM members play the role of a cheesy backup band complete in corny Elvis costumes. For some reason, the dancer always freaked me out. Maybe it’s because she looks like she’s made out of plastic. Otherwise, the clip is humorous and keeps your attention, unlike previous versions, making it one of HIM’s most memorable videos. It’s not their best, but at least it’s fun and doesn’t have cheesy Gothic elements.

“Right Here In My Arms” (2000)

As HIM found more success their videos improved, but they were still kind of rough as this clip shows. Here, the band is trapped in a mirrored box performing the song. Outside, one lucky lady watches the performance even though the band can’t see her. It’s a simple clip but is kind of cool with the box the band is encased in and the lights. Ville finally seems comfortable mugging for the camera but pulls off faces that are supposed to be sexy, yet end up looking funny. Behind him, the rest of the guys are still pulling their best rockstar impressions, tongues hanging out and all. This used to be my favorite HIM video for a while. I remember being jealous of the girl because she got to watch Ville in all his glory. I’ve gotten over it since then.

“When Love and Death Embrace” (1999)

HIM’s first few videos are rough, but at least they started to get it right for their third one directed by Mikko Pitkänen. It’s a straightforward clip; the band sits in what looks like an old hotel mixed with set piece shots and footage of people brooding. Nothing much happens, but its sophisticated tone and charm match the somber mood of the song. Plus, Ville does his best pouting for the camera leading to the start of his sex symbol status. The video’s gloomy vibe does match the sound of the band at this point: melancholy, dark, and gothic. Overall, the video isn’t that memorable, but it’s not terrible.

“Gone With the Sin” (2000)

This video is more Ville eye candy. The clip is just him walking through a beautiful landscape looking sullen and moody. He then comes upon some flowers and makes his way, barefoot, to a grave bearing the heartagram. He leaves the flowers while looking over the grave. Did I mention Ville is walking through the fields without a shirt on? There are actually two versions of this video. Both are pretty much the same except the US version features super bright, vivid colors while Ville himself is in black and white. It’s kind of a cool effect that reminds me of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” video. The Finnish version doesn’t have the blinding colors. Rather, the scenery is presented in all its glory. While the color dynamics are cool in the US version, the entire thing looks more beautiful and pleasant in the Finnish one. The video as a whole is nice even though nothing happens.

“Join Me in Death” (Version 1) (1999)

For a video with four different variants, the first three are very similar. The very first version features the band performing the track in a room filled with lasers. It’s kind of awkward as it’s clear Ville is supposed to be the focus. At this point, he doesn’t seem sure of what to do and starts pulling weird poses and even has a Mick Jagger thing going on. These attempts to look sexy are ruined by the overly pouty faces, glitter make up, and a choker that looks more like a neck brace. Since the song was used in the movie The Thirteenth Floor the remaining versions of this video mix in footage from the film, which features lasers. That makes a lot more sense now. Even worse the footage is so out of place. It’s hard to make the connection between the song and the movie. Still, the video isn’t as memorable or visually pleasing as the later clip.

“Poison Girl” (2000)

I’m not a fan of live performance videos. They’re overdone, lazy, and generic. It’s no different for this HIM clip. The video is pulled from various performances from their 2000 Berlin show. It features the band playing the song with plenty of eye candy shots of Ville pulling off his cheesy rockstar impression. There’s even a moment where he takes off his shirt followed by a shot of drooling girls in the crowd. The video doesn’t even feature a live version of the song. Rather, it’s the standard track played over live footage. Aside from some brief moments, the clip is pretty dull. And watching a young Ville’s rockstar behavior is kind of cringy. I’m sure back in the day I would’ve found these shots sexy. Now, they’re kind of awkward to sit through.

“Wicked Game” (1996) (German Version)

HIM’s first video is something you would dream up when you’re 15. So yeah, it’s pretty bad. That’s to be expected for any band trying to make a name for themselves. The amateur clip hits all the hard rock video clichés: headbanging, playing in the woods, sticking out your tongue and making devil horns, and random shots of a dog. It even has a sepia tint for that extra dose of “edgy.” Though it’s cheesy, it’s still kind of cute. The band doesn’t seem to take the video seriously. The only one trying to pretend they’re actually performing is the drummer, Gas Lipstick. Ville doesn’t even lip synch half the time. You can even see him in the background walking the dog as if he grew bored with video shenanigans. The band tried two more times to get the video right, improving with each attempt.

“Pretending” (2001)

If you get dizzy easily, best avoid this video. Either the band or director Kevin Godley wanted some sort of shtick to make the video memorable. What’s the result? A goofy mechanism that rocks the members back and forth. Instead of looking cool, the video is disorientating and not pleasant to watch. While the other guys rock gently, Ville is tossed violently back and forth while holding onto the mic stand for dear life. Because he comes in and out of frame so fast it starts to make your stomach turn. In the end, the video is memorable after all; I remember to avoid it because it makes me sick.

“Wicked Game” (1998)

Somehow HIM’s second attempt at this video is cheesier than the first. The clip finds the band playing outside yet again this time fighting against bad weather. Ville is bombarded with a diva fan looking uncomfortable while ladies clad in stereotypical Goth attire (dread falls, latex, black wings) look on from afar. Some ladies dance, Ville mugs for the camera, and gets close to the love interest. That’s about it. Rather than going cheap, the director, Markus Walter, went for a stereotypical “dark” mood, which ends up looking bad. At least in the first version, the band looked like they were having fun. Here, they look pretty miserable, especially Ville who is pelted with snow in the face and then soaked with rain by the end. Luckily, by the third time, the band finally got it right.

Be sure to come back next month where we’ll look at HIM’s videos from 2001 – 2005.

Add Violence – Nine Inch Nails

Release Year: 2017

Rating: 8.5/10

Nine Inch Nails’ Not the Actual Events EP, the first in a trilogy, wasn’t the fury and fire we expected. While it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t all that memorable. The songs were decent and the mood was forced aggression. But with Add Violence, the second EP, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross hit their stride. They give us a record that successfully mixes new NIN ventures with the challenging and often chilling songs they’re known for. The result is ugly, unpleasant, and unfriendly, something Reznor actually wanted. But this doesn’t mean the EP is bad; it may be the best they’ve given us since their return.

Reznor lulls you into a safe space with opening track “Less Than.” Not as compelling as other songs, it’s the most accessible. It has catchy synth heavy music reminiscent of old school video games that makes you dance. The memorable hook doesn’t hurt either. The song gets a kick to the gut during the chorus when the music explodes in distortion. It’s reminiscent of Hesitation Marks sound and while it may not grab you at first, it grows on you over time. The mood shifts when we get to “The Lovers.” The music starts out quiet with an atmospheric air that slowly builds up around Reznor’s unnerving muted vocals. There’s a sense of unease with this song – the music creeps along as if waiting for something bad to happen. And lyrics like “Please don’t leave me here/I could stop it/Maybe I could stop it (if I wanted to)/But I’m not the one driving anymore” are haunting. It sounds like someone trying to regain control as they’re slowly losing it. It’s a great song that sets up the EP’s uneasy mood.

The stand out track on this EP is the chilling “This Isn’t the Place.” It opens on a fragile, haunting note with an eerie piano and synth that’s constantly swelling. It keeps you on edge letting you wonder where the song is headed next. It finally breaks when we get to Reznor’s fragile, broken falsetto vocals. He sounds scared as he sings “I thought we had more time” a harrowing reminder that life is short. Soon, the music swells once again drowning out Reznor and leaving you shaken. It’s a track that’s uncomfortable and unnerving, something NIN excels at.

Not Anymore” breaks up the atmospheric mood and gets back to the rougher side of NIN. The music starts out fuzzy and rough sounding before everything explodes and speeds up during the hook. This is more akin to their typical sound since it’s bursting with energy and aggression. While it’s not as unnerving as some of the other tracks, it’s the hardest one on the EP. It’s a frantic track that gets your heart pumping and your fists in the air like every good NIN song should.

The final track “The Background World” gets into the ugliness Reznor wanted to tap into. Clocking in at 11 minutes, the first half of the track has an electronic soundscape steadily building up to something heavier and darker. The last seven minutes are filled with an electronic loop that gets more distorted and garbled as time goes on. Everything gets more broken up until you can’t recognize the music anymore. It’s a compelling, yet uncomfortable experience. It’s easy to stop the song before it reaches this part, but it’d sound incomplete without it. Somehow Reznor managed to make this wall of noise an integral part of the song rather than unnecessary garbage to fill up the record.

Add Violence is a moody, atmospheric experience that shows Reznor can still make compelling music this late in his career. Whereas the previous EP sounded like blind fury and aggression that didn’t leave a lasting impression, this EP successfully mixes the old and the new. It’s a record to get lost in and once you come out, you’re left shaken. Reznor succeeds in giving us music that’s uncomfortable, which is where NIN shines. It’s clear that NIN is working up to something bigger and with this release. We’ll be waiting eagerly to see what it is.