Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Don't Blame it On Jamie Foxx (Volume One, Issue One)

Two new (and insane) music videos were released this week: Jamie Foxx's "Blame It" and Lil Wayne's "Prom Queen."

Hype Williams presents: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ron Howard, Forest Whitaker, and Samuel L. Jackson in "Blame It (featuring T-Pain)." Besides the "headliners," if you watch the video carefully, you'll be able to spot Clifton Powell, Ced the Entertainer, and Quincy Jones. And without further adieu, here's the video in all its glory(?):

My first reaction upon watching this was something along the lines of, "What the hell? And is this for real?" Well, obviously it's for real. It is the official video for the song. It was debuted on BET last week, and the two VJs hosting the show took it very seriously: "If you don't know who Ron Howard is, IMDB him, man... he's a big dawg!"

But what to think of the video? Directed by Hype Williams, one of the preeminent music video directors of the last two decades, "Blame It" was unquestionably very thought out. Hype's been responsible for many of the most famous hip-hop videos, period. Some of my personal favorites of his are M.O.P.'s "How About Some Hardcore," Wu-Tang Clan's "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing ta Fuck Wit/Shame on a Nigga," Tupac's "California Love," and Kanye West's "Heartless." I won't bore you with any more of his very extensive videography, but I encourage anyone unfamiliar with his considerable contributions to the music video as an art form to, you know, Google him.

So, this begs the question: is "Blame It" self aware? I am ashamed to admit that at first I was unsure. On my first couple viewings, I was struck by how harmless and goofy the video is. And yet everyone is taking themselves so seriously. Is this supposed to be taken seriously? Was I missing something? Well, yes, I was. This is Hype Williams we're talking about. He basically invented the hip hop video. And this video is rife with hip hop video cliches. Lots of eye candy, lots of celebrities just hanging out, nice cars, nice clothes, expensive alcohol... T-Pain and Jamie Foxx even get into a step line towards the end of the video. As soon as I realized this, I had my answer. Of course this video is self aware. Jamie Foxx and Ron Howard and everyone else know how ridiculous this video is, and so they sell it for all it's worth. Jamie Foxx even dances in a panda suit (which gives the entire video a very psychedelic quality, if you ask me).

There's no question that "Blame It" is a much better video than the song behind it. But that's okay. The video makes up for everything the song lacks. It's nice to see that some people in Hollywood still have a sense of humor about themselves.

Lil Wayne's latest video is a completely different story. "Prom Queen" is the first single off his upcoming rock album, Rebirth. In the video, Lil Wayne is spurned by his high school's prom queen. He goes on to become super famous, and then he gets the last laugh. I really don't have much to say about the video or the song itself. They're both awful. Apparently Lil Wayne has been taking guitar lessons from (of all people) Kid Rock. Apparently he collaborated with Fall Out Boy and Avril Lavigne for this upcoming album. Apparently Lil Wayne is whack as hell. But don't take my word for it:

I think this video, especially when set next to the comparatively brilliant "Blame It," represents a new low in Lil Wayne's career. Maybe some day he'll go back to what he's best at -- cutting underground mixtapes.

I welcome your thoughts on whether you think "Blame It" is self-aware or not. I also welcome your thoughts on Lil Wayne's sad downward spiral.


  1. I like "Prom Queen." Though i don't think it's good necessarily, I'm glad to see more pop artists experimenting with their sound. Even if it doesn't work out for Weezy I'm sure he'll learn something from this and hopefully return to rap with a vengeance. Can't wait for the album to drop so as to get more of a complete idea of what it is he's actually doing here.

    That looks like Korn in the video.

  2. I am all for artists branching out and trying new sounds and ideas whether it's Stevie Wonder writing a concept album about plants, Paul McCartney producing an instrumental cover album of his own "Ram" under the pseudonym Percy Thrillington, Neil Young unleashing "Trans" on a world that will never be ready for it or Kid Rock trading in his shitty faux-alt rock for his equally shitting faux-country rock.

    Having said that, I can't think of "Prom Queen" as anything other than an embarrassment. It combines the most loathsome elements of contemporary (e.g. 2003) KROQ-rock and contemporary (e.g. 2008) hip-hop pop. The auto-tuned vocals, while thankfully drowning out sub-Linkin Park lyrics, are still a watery annoyance and aren't deployed strategically like in "Heartless" or "Love Lockdown." They're just kind of aimlessly pissed all over the track. Finally, I can understand why a rapper (or any artist) would want to tap into the mythology of being a "rock star," but why would you pick an era commonly regarded as mainstream rock's nadir to emulate?

    I have to say that I feel almost affectionate towards the Hype Williams video. The track itself is fluff, but the stunt casting boarders on the surreal and the images of bald-ass Ron Howard staring clumsily into the camera and of Jamie Foxx dancing with a Panda bear head are ones to savor. I should really check out more of Hype William's stuff (the only other work of his I've seen is the stupendous "Heartless" promo). I don't know though, maybe the juxtaposition with the pathetic fantasies of the "Prom Queen" video make it seem better than it is. Or maybe I should BLAME IT ON THE A-A-A-A-A-AL-CO-HOL.