all grown up.
My ADHD was cultivated by watching music videos during summer vacation. In fact, I think my "thing" for women in glasses started with Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" video; somehow, I implicitly associated sexiness with a woman gazing at you from behind the lenses of reading spectacles, removing them from her face, letting her hair down, and taking a shot of "medicine" before she jumped on it.
In between trips to the Hessen Cassel Library (I always seemed to finish the summer reading in mere weeks. I'd have been done much more quickly had my avuncular escort and other babysitters been kind enough to take me over there more often.), and after our morning basketball camp--both YMCA and unofficial ones that I held in our driveway--I'd plop down in front of the television, and watch videos for the rest of the day with my younger brother and sister, and any other children my parents decided to take in that summer. Not knowing life without cable-- I have distinct memories of rocking out to MTV while my father was still in the house, and my parents split by the time I was six--we'd frantically switch between the three music channels (Vh1, BET, and MTV), hoping not to miss the hottest videos. My right-hand dexterity--I'm a southpaw-- was strengthened during those summer days when we hid from the Midwestern humidity in the basement. We had no remote control (what my father calls "the changer"), so I'd sit by the set and effortlessly switch channels: 3-2! 3-3! 3-6! and back again. Occasionally we'd check in at Nickelodeon (channel 3-5!) on our way back down from BET, but mostly we solidified our short attention spans with 3-minute visual masterpieces.
We all had our favorite artists. I secretly lusted after members of En Vogue, while my sister practiced her octave-range while watching Mariah Carey's "Someday." We all learned the dance moves to Janet Jackson's, "Miss You Much." Even though he's all sulking and thugged out now, I'm pretty sure my brother can still do a mean Ed Lover dance. Looking back, I recognize the power of television to provoke. It's the "Pleasure Principle" video that prompted me to try that "chair trick" and damn near lose my left leg. I admit that I've liked songs simply because I dug the video.
To pacify my sporadic nostalgic desires, sometimes, if I can peel myself away from reruns of House Hunters, I watch hours of Vh1 Soul. If I'm lucky, they'll show a string of videos that remind me of those afternoons in the basement. And, well, most of that shit is straight hilarity. (Teddy Riley in a Speedo? Gut-busting laughs, homie.) Before the days of Hype Williams and Little X, the only nigga consistently bringing cinematic epics to the music video game was Michael Jackson. His world premieres were prime time wet dreams for us. Moonwalker still ranks highly among my favorite movies; the 15-minute version of "Smooth Criminal," is my most favorite video of all time.
The other day I was chatting it up about various tropes in R&B videos from the 80s and 90s, and I focused much of that discussion on the fact that sometimes the concept of these videos led these acts to the most unlikely of places. Locales like the beach (niggas don't swim), and the desert (though we are a tropical people, nigga, it's hot!), for starters.
I assume it was a desire to change up the scenery to something, say, less urban, and that's understandable. But can someone tell me why Jodeci was in the middle of the desert in combat boots? Why was En Vogue doing some version of choreographed tai chi while rocking makeshift "burqas"? And who puts a bedroom in the desert? En Vogue repeated the desert theme in "Runaway Love." Then there was Zhane (so underrated) all bronzed-up looking like Oscars (thx, m'guito) in the "Sending My Love" video. In my estimation, the only niggas who should've been out in the desert were Boyz II Men with their video, "Water Runs Dry." As a funny aside, my mother thought they were saying, "Let's go down to the river and die." She has a hard time understanding lyrics. When you think about it, though, that Boyz II Men flub kind of makes sense.
Then, of course, there is the beach scene, oft-used by boy bands such as Color Me Badd, and Shai--how'd they get dudes from Howard to stand on a rock and lip-sync? Guy's use of the seaside location on several occasions should be noted. Ah, there was a time when Guy videos were the raciest shits on tv; folks had yet to be creative enough to think of the things one could accomplish with a credit card and a more than willing ass-crack. Now, I still can't figure out why those images were so captivating to us.
Yesterday, my sister called me for advice. Eventually she started talking about how everyone, especially our parents, is getting older. My brother has a son, now, and I'm getting closer to thirty each day. And even though watching Vh1 Soul is a nice little diversion down memory lane, I still kind of wish my brother and sister were willing to do that "hopping move" they learned from the Fine Young Cannibals' "She Drives Me Crazy." Maybe next week when I'm in Charlotte, NC, Janelle and I will humor ourselves with the "Guess Which Song I'm Mouthing Game." It's one of the myriad of games we've made up over the years. It'd be a great way to end the summer. School starts soon.
(But some days I sit and wish I was a kid again.)
Labels: random bullshit
language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison