Video killed the radio star in 1981. By the end of the '90s, though, 120 Minutes was dead, The Real World had shown MTV that reality doesn't bite viewers so much as it addicts them, and the music video had become irrelevant to everybody but the TRL crowd. Thanks to Apple, however, it may be making a comeback. The new iPod supports videos, which means that you can now watch everything from TV shows to porn on its tiny 2.5-inch screen. In the coming months, iTunes will expand its music-video store, and the major-label acts aren't the only ones with something to sell. Your favorite indie bands also have blown their T-shirt money on promotional films, which you can find at their Web sites or at services like iFilm, Rhapsody and AOL Music. Some are hilarious, some are hilariously cheap, and some are just genius. Wack offers up a few of the more noteworthy selections:
Arcade Fire, "Neighborhood #2 (Laika)," "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)," "Rebellion-lies": Arcade Fire doesn't screw around when it comes to videos. The "Neighborhood #2" and "#3" entries feature intricately animated worlds, one like a water-stained children's book and the other a digitally animated caper, which stars little dudes who look like Jawas in Santa outfits and ends in a climactic battle at a power plant. But don't bother watching "Rebellion-lies" on a computer or an iPod. The footage of the band shooting bolts of lightning at kids undoubtedly looks cool on TV, but the effect is lost on a Post-It-size window.
Spoon, "Sister Jack": Love the song, like the '60s-rock knockoff, but can't stand the video, which all too literally follows the track's title by showing a dude walking around in a nun's habit. Britt Daniels, you're lucky the chicks dig your narrow little face, 'cause there's nothing else to look at here.
Bright Eyes, "Lua" and "Lover I Don't Have to Love": Bright Eyes is king of the cheap music video. In "Lua," Conor Oberst sits in a thrift-store parka at a bus stop and just plays the song on his acoustic, with two cameras filming him (one of them gets in the other's shot). If you're a member of the "It's Conor, OMG!" club, you can just gaze at his face as he plays. We're not, so this just made us realize how damned long "Lua" is. By contrast, in "Lover I Don't Have to Love," you never even see the boy wonder. This one's produced like a karaoke video, with the lyrics running across the screen. That sounds lame, but it's actually a great gag. Have you ever downed a few Pink Slippers and given a crowd your best impression of Oberst's cracked vocals? Believe us, it's liberating.
Deerhoof, "Dog on the Sidewalk": At less than a minute long, this one's just a series of photos of, well, dogs on sidewalks. Thanks, but we already have that screen-saver.
The New Pornographers, "All for Swinging You Around": We saved the best for last. This unbelievably great video shows a bunch of incredibly cute and wholesome Canadian girls decked out in camisoles and PJs, dancing to this song, sometimes in slow motion. It's so hot, they don't even need to tickle each other! Not only do we enjoy the video, but it sums up the genius of the New Pornographers: They write pop songs that make teen girls want to dance. Isn't that why we invented music in the first place?
BETWEEN THE SHEETS
If you need any further proof that not a lot has changed in pop music over the past ten years, just look at Gwen Stefani's latest hit, "Luxurious." The song samples none other than the Isley Brothers' baby-making classic "Between the Sheets," which the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Big Poppa" famously did a decade ago.
Before you start calling out Stefani for biting a sample some artist already took to the top of the charts, you should realize that "Sheets" is, in fact, one of the most sampled tunes out there, already used by artists way before Biggie and Gwen. According to the who-sampled-what Web site www.the-breaks.com, rappers ranging from A Tribe Called Quest to Audio Two to UGK are all guilty of repurposing the tune for their own rap ditties.
Local DJ Governor Good Grief says the song is so popular to lift because, simply, the beats are prime for sampling. "On a serious tip, you got the 808. You got the 909 on there," Grief says of the popular drum machines. "You got all the crazy, fat drum sounds from that joint." He also points out that it's the definitive '80s freakdown jam. "For all those booty calls you got from here and there, they've been furnished by Ron Isley," he says.
So, in honor of the Isley Brothers' upcoming show at Reliant Arena, we ask: Who else has used the booty-call favorite for personal gain? Here's a brief rundown. Feel free to make yourself a nice "Sheets" mixtape:
Song: "Breaker 1/9"
Info: Way before he was enlightening fans with his conscious rhymes, Common was just a struggling MC like everyone else. This track from his little-known, aptly titled 1992 album Can I Borrow a Dollar?, complete with the slinky "Sheets" synthesizer melody on a loop, is a blazing example of that.
Essential listening for: Those hip-hop snobs who thought Resurrection was the first -- and greatest -- shit the man ever dropped. (You know who you bitches are!)
Info: Audiences may have been feeling kiddie rap duo Kris Kross back in the early '90s, but this pint-size dancehall rapper failed to catch fire. At least this 1994 track, which also sampled the famed "Sheets" synthesizer rhythm, sounds fairly catchy.
Essential listening for: People who've ever wondered what Ini Kamoze would sound like if he'd started out rapping at ten.
Artist: Da Brat
Info: The tomboyish MC's breakthrough 1994 hit, courtesy of boy wonder Jermaine Dupri, is also the song that most subtly samples "Sheets," as the melody gets replayed on synthesizers and used as the backbeat.
Essential listening for: Standard blunt-blazing, or for those still trying to figure out what the hell Janet Jackson sees in Jermaine Dupri.
Artist: Keith Murray
Song: "The Most Beautifullest Thing in This World"
Info: Remember in the mid-'90s when East Coast MCs like Keith Murray were the shit? Well, if you don't, his debut 1994 single, composed by Murray and EPMD's Erick Sermon, should jog your memory, as the "Sheets" melody also gets replayed and reconfigured on this one.
Essential listening for: Folks still holding out for that Def Squad reunion album.
Artist: Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock
Song: "Break of Dawn"
Info: "It Takes Two" straight-up snatches the "Sheets" synth sound and throws in some poppy drums for the first track off their 1994 album, also titled Break of Dawn.
Essential listening for: Those wondering if Base and Rock did anything else besides "It Takes Two."
Artist: Whitney Houston
Song: "One of Those Days"
Info: Miss "Crack Is Wack" was the last to sample the song in 2002, lifting the melody and chorus, even snagging Mr. Biggs himself, Ronald Isley, to appear in the video.
Essential listening for: When your significant other is digging a "dookie bubble" out of your butt!
The Isley Brothers appear Saturday, December 31, at Reliant Arena, 8400 Kirby, 713-799-9500.
BETWEEN THE CRACKS
Band name: Dissonant Angel
Web site: dangelrock.com or myspace .com/dissonantangel
Personnel: Marzz Starr (rhythm/lead guitar), Rip (lead/rhythm guitar), Ryan (bass), Joe (drums), Shadow (lead vocals)
Native or transplant? Native
What's in a name, particularly yours? The struggle of being human
When did you form? In 2003, but members of the band have been playing together for years
Releases/discography: Dissonant Angel self-titled EP (2005), Tomorrow Starts Today (December 2005-January 2006 target date)
What albums have had the biggest impact on you? Strungout's Twisted by Design, Mötley Crüe's Too Fast for Love, Iron Maiden's Killers, Guns N' Roses' Appetite for Destruction
What artists have had the biggest impact on you? Randy Rhodes, Marc Bolan, Steve Harris, CKY, Steven Tyler, Mike Portnoy
Finish this sentence: I'd rather be... touring
Where do you see yourself in five years? Hopefully signed with a couple of successful albums underneath our belt
What's the biggest misconception about you or your band? That we're a screaming death metal band. We are a melodic rock band.
Weezer or Winger? Weezer
Jay-Z or Z-Trip? Neither
Parting shot? Come check us out live. You won't be disappointed. Our show is very energetic and balls-to-the-wall. Plus, beware of our face-melting solos!
See them at: Java Jazz Coffee House, 2502 FM 1960 East, 832-392-8542
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