10 June 2009

Oh, What Can It Mean?

The Monkees' "Daydream Believer" video is a nearly perfect deconstruction of an art form from within.

Of course, it helps to start with good raw material: a fine pop song by Kingston Trio veteran John Stewart which spent four week at #1 on the Billboard singles chart. Add the groovy psychedelia of late 1967, before the trend went sour.

But what makes the video great is the Monkees themselves: four young performers starting to chafe at the limits of the television personas that have made them famous, rich, and creatively unfulfilled. So they chip away at the very nature of the music video, revealing that they're only pretending to play their instruments and then competing to lip-synch the lead vocals. But they've become such practiced comedians that they can do that without destroying the enjoyment.

All that makes this literal version of the "Daydream Believer" video simply redundant. It's already deconstructed itself. The result is like listening to people recite Monty Python routines at length.

I find "literal" remakes work best with music videos that are pretentious and hint at a narrative thread amidst all the imagery, such as a-ha's "Take On Me" and Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Those deserve deconstruction. The Monkees--they already did the job forty years ago.

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