The Summer's Pop Videos

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We have a winner

It's way too hot to go outside, and virtually every pop chick in the running for Jam of the Summer (except Jessica Simpson) has her video out. And now that Purpology is back, there's going to be a whole lot of video-talk going on around these internet parts. So I guess that means it's time for a round-up of the girls of summer.

Beyonce feat. Jay-Z: "Deja Vu." It's finally here, and it's predictably gorgeous, and I love it, but you already knew that. "Deja Vu" isn't as good as "Crazy in Love," of course, so it's fitting that we don't get any earthshaking iconography here like Beyonce's dress in the first scene or the car that explodes when Jay-Z starts rapping on the "Crazy in Love" video. The "Deja Vu" clip seems predicated on the same idea as Ocean's Twelve: it's fun to watch rich, pretty, talented people being rich and pretty and talented and enjoying their wealth and beauty and talent. I'm one of those weird people who really, really liked Ocean's Twelve, so that works for me. And so that means we get Sophie Muller putting sweltering-verdant filters on her lenses and filming Beyonce striking silent-film poses in front of a lake and twirling a long skirt in front of a sparkling-white antebellum mansion. There's also a weird scene where Jay raps his second verse while Beyonce grinds on him and he pointedly ignores her; I'm not exactly sure what that's supposed to mean. And someone needs to write a book on that one shot near the end of Beyonce doing a shockingly intense bird-flap Alvin Ailey thing.

Christina Aguilera: "Ain't No Other Man." Sean Fennessey wrote a thing about how this video depicts Aguilera as a blonde center of attention in a sea of blackness, and maybe he's on to something there. But I don't know how he manages to count all the white dudes in the video, since most of them are ethnically indeterminate En-Vogue-backup-dancer types with porkpie hats pulled low anyway. The big thing about this video is that it's Aguilera's big leap into jazz-age iconography, a calculated publicity move designed to fully reposition her away from her teenpop roots and reestablish her as a virtuosic young jazz singer who hangs out with Etta James and DJ Premier and, um, Linda Perry. It's not the first time she's tried to do that; a few of us still remember when she did that "Tilt Ya Head Back" shit with Nelly like two years ago. In fact, the urge to dress up in 30s clothes is one that seems to strike pop stars pretty often; Chris Brown's "Gimme That" is just the last one to come along. I don't know exactly why pop stars are always getting all Bugsy Malone on us; it's almost an established video cliche at this point. I wasn't there or anything, but I'm guessing the actual 1930s didn't really look much like what you get from these videos, which almost certainly look a whole lot more like Centennial High School's 1997 production of 42nd Street (I was there for that one). And even though these videos usually turn out to be pretty entertaining, they're also obnoxious reminders that pop stars are usually the sort of unbelievably annoying look-at-me personalities who would've tried out for high-school musicals if their careers as aspiring pop stars had allowed them to actually go to high school. It must be noted, though, that the part where Christina opens and closes and opens her robe and then does that thing with her hips is one of the greatest music-video moments since the zombies started dancing in "Thriller."

Paris Hilton: "Stars Are Blind." The song may be a shockingly likable little nugget of pop-reggae, but that doesn't mean I need to see Paris ineptly grinding on a palm tree or frolicking in the surf in black-and-white like she was Chris Isaak.

Cassie: "Me & U." A video really needs more than one location if it's going to somehow avoid becoming ridiculously boring. I kept waiting for something to happen in this one, some sort of jarring juxtaposition or storyline advancement, but no, it just keeps going: Cassie in a room dancing and staring at herself in the mirror. There's a semi-troubling narcissism overtone running all through this thing: you never see the object of her affection, but you do see her staring longingly into the mirror and even kissing herself. This is maybe supposed to be hot, but it just makes it look like Cassie is really just singing to and about herself, like she's the onlyy person she could ever love. Also, she can't dance. But I like the song and she looks good, so whatever.

Ashlee Simpson: "Invisible." Just awful. Ashlee is virtually unrecognizable with a blonde dye-job, and the song is a wretchedly boring slice of almost-Creed power-ballad sludge. The video is pretentious black-and-white with a ton of slow-mo shots and a plot that egregiously bites Million Dollar Baby with Ashlee looking utterly ridiculous as a boxer. There's something to be said for watching her get her ass beat, but you don't even really get to see any of the other girl's punches land. This is the first bad Ashlee Simpson video.

Kelis: "Bossy." This is what I'm talking about: rich-people decadence, dyed-green poodles eating oysters, jet skis, Lamborghinis, outdoor canopy beds, Frank Gehry buildings, ridiculous sunglasses, ugly-ass grills, ice sculptures, drunk waiters, furtive makeouts, Too Short getting his Cary Grant on. This is pretty much what every music video should aspire to be; it creates a world that probably doesn't even exist but that anyone watching would love to visit. The whole thing is photographed like an American Apparel ad, and Kelis, unsurprisingly enough, looks insanely hot. My only complaint is that stupid dance she does at the beginning where she gives herself tyrannosaurus arms.


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