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10 Bizarre Musical Projects You Didn’t Know About

Sometimes when you’ve been doing the same thing for a long time, you want to try something different. Our favorite artists and bands go through the same things. You often hear about artists wanting to break free from their established sound and do something new and out of the box. Sometimes it can produce successful projects that show another side of an artist you thought you knew. And other times it’s a spectacular failure. So let’s look at ten weird musical projects you may not have known about. Not all of them are failures, but they’ll make you see these artists in a different light.

10. Damon Albarn Writes an Opera

Considering how many projects Damon Albarn has created, him writing an opera doesn’t sound that shocking. In 2011, he teamed up with theatre director Rufus Norris for the production Dr Dee: An English Opera. The opera is based on the life of John Dee, who was a medical and scientific advisor to Elizabeth I. Originally, the production was meant to be a collaboration between Albarn, Jamie Hewlett, and graphic novelist Alan Moore. It played at the Palace Theatre in Manchester in July 2011 and was received relatively well. The soundtrack to the opera was later released in 2012 and honestly, it doesn’t sound too different from his other material. While the release features traditional operatic tracks, other songs sound like they’re from his solo album. They’re spacey, kind of weird, yet beautiful. Maybe he’ll work on a Gorillaz opera next. Actually, that would be pretty awesome.

9. Beastie Boys Go Country

Unlike the other entries on this list, this album was made completely in jest. In 1999, the Beastie Boys recorded a full country album dubbed Mike D’s Greatest Country Hits. They never intended it for a wide release. Rather it was a weird gift for their family and friends. In the liner notes to The Sounds of Science, Adam Yauch explained the origin of the album as Mike D losing his memory due to being hit in the head and believing he was a country singer. “The psychologists told us that if we didn’t play along with Mike’s fantasy, he could be in grave danger. Finally, he came back to his senses. This song (“Railroad Blues”) is one of the many that we made during that tragic period of time.” It has a classic good ‘ol country vibe ala Conway Twitty, heavy twangs and all. Even though the songs are clearly jokes (“Sloppy Drunk”, “Don’t Let the Air Out My Tire”) a lot of country songs are strange, so in a way, they fit right in. You can listen to the entire LP on Youtube. And whatever happened to Country Mike? According to Mike D, he’s homeless.

8. Aretha Franklin Gets Disco Fever

Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul who can do no wrong…expect she did by going Disco with La Diva. In the 70s many artists went disco for a spell from Paul McCartney to KISS. So it’s not exactly weird for Franklin to jump on the bandwagon. But since it was around the time Disco died out, it wasn’t her finest output and ended being a commercial flop. Selling under 75,000 units, it’s still her lowest selling album in her entire Atlantic Records career. Yet, the album isn’t terrible. It’s filled with sappy and generic disco songs prevalent during the era. It seems this record was released at the wrong time. Perhaps if it came out during disco’s peak it would’ve been better received. But seeing as disco was dying out, the album seems like a sad attempt to cash in on a dying trend.

7. Serj Tankian Gets Jazzy with Jazz Is Christ

 

Whenever you think of Serj Tankian the first thing that comes to mind is the heavy, intense music of System of a Down. And while he’s experimented a bit with his solo releases, jazz is the last thing you’d expect to hear from him. But that’s exactly where he went. In 2013 he released the album Jazz-iZ Christ with a group of the same name. Featuring pianist Tigran Hamasyan, flautist Valeri Tolstov, and trumpet player Tom Duprey, the largely instrumental album finds the rocker mixing jazz with elements of rock, electronic, and world music. It’s definitely a weird experience, but it doesn’t sound that bad. It does have the mellow flow of Jazz, but thanks to the blend of other genres it keeps you on your toes. It was a pretty successful release and shows the wide range Tankian has as a musician. Though I’m sure people would prefer a new SOAD record at this point.

6. Garth Brooks Confuses the World with Chris Gaines

Garth Brooks is one of country’s biggest superstars, if not the biggest. Even if you don’t like country music chances are you know one of his songs. He had a slew of hits and multi-platinum albums during his peak in the 90s. But not everything he touched went gold – remember Chris Gaines? Back in 1999, Brooks introduced this “edgy” alter ego to the world and released his only album The Life of Chris Gaines. Featuring Brooks doing his best Savage Garden impression, the album spawned one hit “Lost In You.” As you can guess, the project was a flop yet it wasn’t terrible. It was just weird. Not only did the album receive mixed reviews, fans were confused as hell. Was it a joke? Was it really Garth Brooks? Has he gone crazy? They even made a Behind the Music episode for the persona. Just listen to Brooks explain Gaines’ origins and try not to be confused. Turns out, Brooks planned the persona for a movie he was meant to star in called The Lamb. It didn’t happen. After the fiasco he back to country music. He’s good at it, so he should stick with it.

5. Paul Banks Release a Weird, Hip Hop Infused Mixtape

Paul Banks is better known as the monotone, Ian Curtis-eqsue frontman for Interpol. Banks has picked up various side projects, including a solo career, but his strangest is the 2013 mixtape Everybody On My Dick Like They Supposed to Be. There’s so much weirdness packed into this release you’re not sure where to start. Banks handles production and the actual music, which sounds generic and low quality. As for vocals, rappers like Mike G, Talib Kweli, and High Prizm handle the actual rapping – a smart move on Banks’ part. Though, admittedly, having Banks rap on these tracks may have made the mixtape worthwhile. The release was meant to be a pre-release bonus for his second solo album Banks, but it was released a year later. It seems like Banks is genuinely interested in rap as he teamed up with RZA for the project Banks & Steelz, which surprisingly, was received pretty well.

4. Snoop Dogg Becomes Snoop Lion

People weren’t sure what to make of Snoop Dogg’s reincarnation in 2013. After a documentary dubbed Reincarnated, Snoop introduced his new persona Snoop Lion along with his new Rastafarian lifestyle. The album Reincarnated came out the same year and features Snoop doing his best Reggae impression while singing about smoking weed. Well, at least some things never change. To be fair, Snoop Lion isn’t terrible, but it’s still not great. The album was met with mixed reviews, yet oddly enough was nominated for a Grammy for Best Reggae Album. What a slap in the face for actual reggae artists. Seeing as Snoop released his latest album, Neva Left, under Snoop Dogg, it’s safe to say things are back to normal.

3. Tommy Lee Attempts Nu-Metal

Since hair metal died out in the 90s with the onslaught of grunge, Motley Crue wasn’t at their peak during the era. After some less than stellar albums, drummer Tommy Lee left the band in 1999 and formed Methods of Mayhem his attempt at a rap/rock band. The band released their self-titled album, which went gold and actually received decent reviews. Lead single “Get Naked” received moderate airplay on MTV, which is hard to believe since it’s terrible. Lee shouldn’t be allowed to rap because it’s a mess. And the band as a whole is just generic “hardcore” music and lame lyrics trying to cash in on the “nu-metal” trend at the time. Now, people realize just how bad the band was. Everyone except Tommy Lee. In 2009, he reformed the band with a new lineup and released the album A Public Disservice Announcement. Luckily, he doesn’t rap as much and sticks with something that’s supposed to be singing.

2. Pat Boone Goes Metal…Kind Of

Pat Boone makes the kind of music that gets finger snapping and toes tapping….if you’re over 65. Back in the day, Boone was a Renaissance man appearing in movies, TV shows, being a spokesman, a motivational speaker, and a singer. His music is safe and non-threatening, but in 1997 Boone made the bold decision to go metal in the lamest way possible. In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy features the singer covering metal hits like “You Got Another Thing Coming” and “Crazy Train” in a jazz/big band style, which makes the album even weirder. The covers aren’t necessarily terrible, just confusing as all hell. He sounds like a grandfather when singing “Enter Sandman” and “Holy Diver.” It’s like he wanted to make non-threatening metal for people who don’t actually like metal. If that wasn’t bad enough, the album art shows the then 63-year old wearing a vest and chain. Instead of looking metal he looks like a real-life version of that Ken doll that definitely wasn’t gay.

1. Dee Dee Ramone Reinvents himself as Dee Dee King

Dee Dee Ramone will always be remembered for The Ramones, one of the most influential punk rock bands. But his stint as a rapper will forever haunt him. It sounds like a bad joke but the punk rocker took up rapping in 1989. What started as showing up to Ramones rehearsals in hip-hop gear turned into a weird side project. Under the name Dee Dee King, he released the LP Standing in the Spotlight. It’s almost too painful to listen to. Songs like “Funky Man” and “German Kid” sound like your dad rapping because it’s “hip” and “cool” with the kids. The songs are laughably bad talking about how he’s half German or singing about how the Mash Potato will make your “body move.” He even proclaims he’s a master at hip-hop. At the time Dee Dee said he felt a connection with the underdog spirit of the genre. Later, an older, wiser Dee Dee realized it probably wasn’t the best career move. After the album flopped he went back to the Ramones and all was right with the world.

Which of these bizarre projects is your favorite? Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

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Playlist: Throwback Macy’s Day Parade Performances

It may be hard to remember with commercials constantly shoving Christmas in your face, but Thanksgiving is coming up. That means good food, football, and spending time with people you don’t care about for most of the year. It also means the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. While it’s not one of my favorite holiday traditions, me and my family do watch it every year at least to check out the cool floats. But along with balloons and too much broadway there are “performances.” And man, are some of them awkward. So before you gorge yourself on turkey and dressing, let’s take a look at some throwback performances from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Rick Astley (2008)

You know the moment when a meme dies? Like when your parents start saying “Damn Daniel!” or Toyota plays John Cena’s music in their latest commercial. It’s not funny; it’s just sad whenever anyone uses it. The Macy’s 2008 Thanksgiving Parade is when Rickrolling died. Organizers of the parade decided to rickroll everyone watching by having Rick Astley come out and “sing” “Never Gonna Give You Up” with the dead-eyed cast of Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends surrounding him. There’s nothing wrong with the performance, but it hits a low when Cheese yells “I like Rickrolling!” Like when your parents start liking the same things as you, Rickrolling was officially uncool. But the meme never died if you ask current advertisers.

Backstreet Boys (1997)

The Backstreet Boys mime their hit “As Long as You Love Me” during the 1997 edition of the parade. It’s pretty straightforward, but the thing you notice is how the three most popular members are front and center. So where are Kevin and Howie? Way in the back separated from the other guys. They don’t even get much camera time. There’s only one shot of them before it’s back to Nick, Brian, and AJ. Though the former BSB fangirl in me did beam how adorable Nick (aka the best member) looks in his winter coat.

Nsync (1998)

I’m pretty sure I watched this performance when it first aired back in 1998. There’s nothing notable about it. The boys lipsynch perfectly fine. Though JC is clearly the star. It doesn’t matter that he’s not actually singing, he’s still doing all the head nods and moving clearly enjoying the spotlight. Justin does some weird wiggle behind JC, Lance is off to the side smiling and politely wiggling and Chris and Joey are just kind of standing there. It’s not amazing, but it’s a fun throwback if you’re a former Nsync fangirl. On another note, am I the only one who thinks the announcer saying “the females love them” is creepy?

KISS (2014)

Something about KISS at the Macy’s parade is kind of weird. Coming from a band who has licensed their name on everything from caskets to board games, it shouldn’t be a surprise. Still, it catches you off guard. The bright colorful balloons don’t gel with KISS’ style. But it is funny to see Finn and Jake floating behind Paul Stanley as he tries his hardest to look like a badass. It doesn’t help that they don’t look excited to be there and don’t do a very good job at lipsynching. It’s kind of painful to watch. Also, with a band like KISS couldn’t they give them a better float? They just got a weird plexiglass stage.

Kanye West (2010)

Having Kanye West perform at the parade seems like an odd choice. You don’t think a controversial rapper like West would be asked to appear at a family-friendly event. The network even censored “hell” from his song. It’s just weird to see him there; you’d think he’d believe he was too good to show up. Though his performance was fine, other videos show he was not a favorite at the parade. One clip shows West being booed from the crowd. Maybe that’s why he hasn’t been back since.

98 Degrees (1998)

Watching this performance makes me question how we fangirls ever thought stuff like this was okay. Seeing Nick Lachey continually pout and lick his lips to the camera is cringy. But back in the day, it would make fangirls swoon. Everything about it now is cheesy: the matching outfits, the khakis, the stupid coats, and hairstyle hardened by too much gel. Why did we ever find this attractive?

O-Town (2001)

O-Town never really had the chance to be the next boy band to take the world by storm. But I was a loyal fan, which is why it’s strange that I don’t remember this performance. The band at least acts like they care and actually move around while “singing.” If there’s anything weird about this it’s the song. “We Fit Together” has not so subtle lyrics like “I wanna go all night/ain’t no stopping/til the breaking of the dawn” and “I wanna go/knock knock/our bodies to the beat.” Seems like a very inappropriate song for a televised event that’s supposed to be family friendly.

Baha Men (2002)

There was actually a time when the Baha Men were so popular they were invited to perform at the Thanksgiving parade. And to my disappointment, they don’t even perform “Who Let The Dogs Out?” Yes, the song is stupid and terrible, but it’s the only one people know. You can imagine everyone at home was waiting to hear the song and see them go wild on the float. Instead, we get a lame cover of “Crocodile Rock.” Sadly, this was probably the highlight of their career.

Simple Plan (2003)

Yes, Simple Plan brought their whiny rock to the Thanksgiving Parade in 2003, which was probably the peak of their fame. This is another questionable song choice. The first line of the song features the phrase “I’m a dick,” which the network picked up on and censored. But with all the songs the band had at that point, you’d think they’d ask them to play something else. Also, it’s hard not to cringe while watching Pierre Bouvier trying to be edgy with giant M&Ms looming behind him.

The Lawrence Brothers (1995)

At the peak of his popularity, Joey Lawrence attempted a singing career. And yes, it was bad. This didn’t stop him from roping in his brothers to sing with him at the 1995 Macy’s Day Parade. While Joey looks confident and is putting his heart into lipsynching, the other two couldn’t give a shit. It’s clear on their faces. Matthew looks pained as if he knows he has no business singing. Andrew just looks bored with his chin resting on the float bar. They don’t sound awful; it’s just so unexpected. People must’ve liked because they were invited back multiple times.

Barney (1998)

I included this because I somehow still know all the words to this song even though I haven’t heard it in almost 20 years. This is why I can’t math properly!

New Kids on the Block (1989)

The New Kids or NKOTB if you’re cool, perform this sappy song and don’t do the best job at it. Jordan takes the spotlight, but it’s weird to see him laugh and smile when he sings about kids not having enough to eat. Before that, you can see Donnie say something to him as if they’re not supposed to be performing right now. And at one point Jordan just gives up lipsynching and starts waving. You can barely see the others, though I do like how Joey decided to dress like a 50s mob boss. And for some reason, Donnie starts holding a baseball cap for the rest of the performance. At the end, the music fades out and turns into screams – it was the peak of New Kids mania after all.

Which one of these throwback performances was your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

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!

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.

Playlist: Remembering Chris Cornell

Last month we lost one of the best voices in rock, Chris Cornell. The news came as a shock to fans and those who knew him best. Many are still trying to make sense of the situation and come to terms that he’s gone. He may no longer be with us, but at least we have the gift of his unforgettable music. Not only did he make wonderful music with Soundgarden and on his own, he recorded various covers throughout his career. Whether with Soundgarden or solo, Cornell gave us some of the most chilling and unforgettable covers reminding us why he was a phenomenal singer. To remember Cornell, let’s look at some of his best cover songs.

“Come Together” – Beatles cover from 

Soundgarden takes this psychedelic Beatles song and turns it into a gritty, dirty affair. They bring in the down tuned guitars, sludgy riffs, and screeching guitars, slowing things down and making everything heavy as hell. They manage to turn the song into a bonafide rocker making you want to bang your head and stick up those devil horns. If you didn’t know anything about The Beatles, you’d be convinced Soundgarden were the originators. It may be gritty, yet Cornell’s vocals keep the soulful vibe of the original.

“Whole Lotta Love” – Led Zeppelin cover from Guitar Heaven The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time

When you get one of music’s greatest guitar players along with one of rock’s greatest vocalists, you know you’re in for something good. In 2010, Carlos Santana and Chris Cornell teamed up for a rousing cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta love.” While it’s very true to the original, you can’t deny how much it just fucking rocks. Santana lights up the guitar making the iconic riff sound sweeter and sexier. Cornell easily gives Robert Plant a run for his money. He hits every note perfectly reminding you what a great singer he was. The Led Zeppelin version will always be great, but Cornell and Santana almost have them beat with their cover. Why didn’t they do a whole album together?

“Billie Jean” – live Michael Jackson cover

Lots of artists cover this Michael Jackson hit, but no one else brings you to tears with it like Chris Cornell. With only his vocals and an acoustic guitar, his rendition is absolutely haunting. Cornell manages to bring out the underlying darkness of this song that you often forget once you hear that iconic beat. He sings the song as if he’s been through this hell himself. His vocal delivery is so powerful and so intense, it would bring tears to your eyes before his untimely death. Not to mention the violent way he plays the guitar rousing a great reaction from the crowd. It’s not only a memorable performance, it shows how versatile he was as a musician.

“Girl U Want” – Devo cover from “Outshined” single

For the b-side on the “Outshined” single, Soundgarden covered this frantic Devo track. They suck all the bouncy energy and fun vibe out of it and turn it into a sludge fest. Everything is slowed down and played heavily as if the guitar’s a sopping wet with mud. Their version is heavy and somewhat dark with the haunting way Cornell delivers the lyrics. It’s a far cry from Devo’s version; if it wasn’t for the guitar riff you wouldn’t even know they were the same song. They definitely stamped the song with their gritty, raw rock sound.

“Nothing Compares 2 U” – live Sinead O’Connor cover

Cornell had a knack for making his covers sound haunting and somber. So it’s surprising that he managed to make this Prince song sound even sadder. That’s not to say it isn’t lovely. The acoustic rendition is as beautiful as the original and Cornell’s gruff vocals are perfectly suited for the song. There’s even a country vibe to it at times, but it doesn’t last long. Since the instrumentation is subdued, it gives you the chance to hear his singing, which is mesmerizing. It’s enough to give you chills, especially with his untimely passing.

“Imagine” – John Lennon cover from Songbook

The thing about Cornell’s covers is they’re straightforward and simplistic, but it’s his voice that makes them outstanding. It’s no different with this John Lennon classic. This song always had a melancholic mood to it, but when Cornell sings it, it’s enough to break your heart. Here we get the best of both worlds; he gives us a taste of his gruff, powerful vocals he’s known for, but we mostly hear his softer, gentler crooning, which is beautiful. Again, he doesn’t try to make the song his own. Rather he adds his chilling vocals for an unshakeable effect.

“Waiting for the Sun” – Doors cover from Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across the Path

For Soundgarden’s cover of this Doors song, things start out muted and somewhat psychedelic. Cornell sounds like he’s mumbling through the lyrics. Just when you’re ready to nod off, the band kicks into high gear and lets it rip. The distorted guitars, throbbing bass, and pounding drums add a much needed dose of adrenaline to the song. It takes a drug induced classic to something that kicks ass. Whenever you hear that brief pause before everything explodes you’re left waiting in anticipation, waiting for the sweet release. When it finally comes, it’s the most satisfying moment.

“Dear Prudence” – live Beatles cover

Cornell puts his spin on yet another Beatles hit. Cornell is known for his powerful vocals, but for this cover, we get to hear a softer side. With a gentle acoustic guitar setting the mood, Cornell croons this classic never missing a beat. He sounds downright sweet when he hits those high notes at the end of the verses. His quiet, subdued delivery makes the song beautiful. It shows Cornell’s impressive range; he had the chops to make us rock out, but his croons also bring tears to your eyes.

“Cop Killer” – live Body Count cover

Did Soundgarden really cover Body Count’s controversial 1992 song? It sounds too good to be true, but they actually did during one of their Lollapalooza sets. After an impassioned speech from Cornell about exercising your power and not letting others tell you what you can’t do, the band launches into the notorious song. Everything about the performance sounds mad as hell; Matt Cameron beats away at the drum as if trying to break them, while the guitars sound like they’re screeching on their last breath. Cornell gives it his all rallying the crowd for a call to arms. During an unforgettable break, Cornell reassures us the song’s not about killing others, it’s about fighting for your rights. He then launches into a “fuck the police” chant. It’s an exciting, heart-pounding moment that riles you up and gets you ready to fight. Too bad the performance hasn’t been cleaned up and remastered for an official release.

“Hotel California” – live Eagles cover

“Hotel California” is one of those songs everyone knows is good, but no one listens to thanks to the radio playing it to death. Cornell’s acoustic cover makes the song exciting again. It’s a simple, straightforward rendition, but as always, it’s Cornell’s vocals that take it to another level. The grittiness of his vocals makes it sound like he knows what this person’s been through. He adds this harrowing vibe to the song and makes it fresh again. His version reminds you how good the song is. He can’t outdo the original, but his version comes close.

“Thank You” – Sly and the Family Stone cover from John Peel BBC Session 

Soundgarden gets funky for this cover. With a thick bass groove that sounds like it’s summoning Flea, the band lays down a heavy dose of funk mixing it with their heavy, dirty sound. The result is a stellar cover that more people should be talking about. As soon as that opening riff hits and Cornell lets out that wild scream you can’t help but nod your head with an intense feeling of “hell yes!” The band leaves their unmistakable mark on the song, but they manage to keep the soul of the original. And just when you thought the song couldn’t get any sicker, bassist Hiro Yamamoto gives us a hot solo. It’s not only Soundgarden’s best cover, it’s one of the best cover songs out there.

“I Will Always Love You” – live Whitney Houston

You wouldn’t expect a rocker like Chris Cornell to cover this Whitney Houston classic. Performed during a 2012 concert, his version is stripped back with only him and his acoustic guitar. He doesn’t try any fancy tricks with it or even try to make it his own. He just sings it straight. It’s his honest, passionate delivery that makes it so great. Even though the poor audio quality of the Youtube videos, you can hear how amazing he sounds. He holds those soaring notes with ease and his vocals are just as powerful as Houston’s. Though you would expect the cover to make you sad after his death, in a weird way it’s reassuring as if it’s a message to fans and family. His love will always be with us through the music.

Thank you for the wonderful music, Chris Cornell. You won’t be forgotten.