06 September 2006

Bjorn's video diaries: 01

A second-by-second account of the hottest videos of yesterday, today and occasionally tomorrow. In depth analysis of inconsequential details that even the director didn't give a shit about. Minutia writ large.

Today, we'll be putting R. Kelly's "Ignition (Remix)" under the microscope.


R and an unknown cohort, resplendent in matching white fur coats, are introduced performing in what appears to be some kind of vast IKEA showroom.


The cohort, in a failed bid for a tiny sliver of the spotlight, steps to the foreground and attempts to lip-synch a line or two of a song he may or may not have actually heard before. One second later, a kindly editor mercifully relegates the remainder of his brush with stardom to the cutting room floor.


Revellers party in slow motion somewhere without a wall full of backlit blue bottles. Are they in the next room over from R? Awaiting his grand entrance, perhaps?


More (the same?) revellers pile into some sort of plush clown car parked at the foot of the kind of neon-stained tower one only thinks to build in Atlantic City or Las Vegas. The first-class IKEA shuttle, no doubt. The one they don't let riff-raff like you and I ride. Strictly for pop stars and their closest posse members.


The clown car is revealed to be a stretch limousine of some sort, which explains its boundless capacity for revellers.


The clown car has a neon sign in the window designating it "Club Jeeeep". Is there a club inside the clown car?


There is indeed. R and Cohort make their highly anticipated entrance, this time in colour-coordinated pro sports apparel: R in a nameless Boston Celtics jersey, Cohort modeling a Curtis Martin Jets number. R matches his jersey with a Celtics ballcap and, if I'm not mistaken, Celtics-green bandages on his hands.


R stalks the camera through a crowd of revellers. Watch as a man in a red Oilers jersey to his immediate right absent-mindedly grabs his crotch, as though unaware he is on camera.


R exhorts the listener to "bounce, bounce, bounce" while demonstrating with his hands. He has no trouble getting the revellers to join in with this simple gesture. The drinks are on R's tab and they've all been told they're going to be on TV, so presumably they'd all roll over and bark like chihauhaus if he told them to. Hell, I would.


R and Cohort are simultaneously in Club Clown Car and back at IKEA, where the fur coats remain very much in effect.


R and Cohort are not alone in IKEA; there are a select few women allowed, the inner harem, if you will. The rest are relegated to Club Clown Car, dreaming of the day R asks them to join him in his opulent private furniture studio.


In case you doubt the sincerity of R's intentions, he removes his sunglasses, and lip-synchs earnestly into the camera.


Club Clown Car is revealed to be a stretch Hummer. An invention which obviously followed from the realisation that Hummers are simply not obnoxious enough at their normal size. Does this seem needlessly extravagant? You try fitting a nightclub with a full-service bar and large dancefloor in the back of a Toyota.


And a DJ booth.


And enough headroom for some guy to be riding on someone's shoulders.


Oh, that's R. He's changed jerseys; now it's the Bulls. Cohort is offscreen, presumably changing into a Cardinals jersey to keep the whole same-colour-different-sport thing going.


Striding down the bar, absolutely owning the party.


And sitting at said bar? Cohort, a girl on each arm, still wearing his now-clashing Jets jersey, completely neglecting his cohort duties. I'm guessing he got replaced by the time R shot the "Playas Only" video.


We're back at IKEA but the outfits have changed, and this one's a doozy. R and Cohort are wearing brown basketball jerseys over white tees with matching brown tracksuit pants and red paisley bandannas. The jerseys both have the number 1 on the chest and, just above that, the only detail that differs on the two outfits: while Cohort's says "Bulls", R's inexplicably displays the letters "TLC".

I don't get it. R will give you tender lovin' care, girl? Or is it a tribute to Left Eye, who had passed away less than a year before this video was shot? So many questions.

Oh, and another thing: the bottles have changed. The decorative blue vessels have been replaced by what appear to be liquor bottles. Cutty Sark would be my guess, but I'm not nearly classy enough to possess any familiarity with whatever it is a guy like R drinks, let alone recognise its attendant bottle design from afar.


Meanwhile, back at Club Clown Car, R crouches down on the bar to throw a friendly arm around the shoulder of Cohort (who is still wearing that Jets jersey), as if to offer a sign of forgiveness for Cohort's failure to keep up with the costume changes. A hollow gesture no doubt. Cohort will still wind up browsing the help-wanteds come Monday. All this means is that R has decided to kindly forego the humiliating punishment of seducing Cohort's girlfriend and urinating on her. R's posse has no room for amateurs, my friend.


R at last gives up waiting for Cohort to catch up and simply changes back into the Celtics jersey.


R's facial expression when he hits this high note must be paused to be believed. How could anyone possibly doubt this man's sincerity? You can't fake that. He will freak you.


Again with the high note. Seriously, he looks like he's undergoing some sort of physiological examination. Cohort points to R and underscores the intensity of the moment with a "Yo, check this out" expression.


R pumps his fists in anticipation of the chorus, while Cohort stands around making the same pointing motion from the last scene. Can he even hear the song?

This leads me to a burning question: what exactly is Cohort's job? I mean I can see what he's doing, but like, what does he write on his 1040s under "occupation"? When people ask his mother, "So, what does your son do for a living?", what does she tell them?

In R&B videos of yore, an artist might be seen performing with backup singers or backup dancers. But Cohort is never seen dancing (and doesn't look like the kind of man who tries), and we established early on that he doesn't even know the words. All he seems to do is reiterate and emphasise the sentiment of R's earnest pantomiming, which I guess makes him a sort of "backup gesturer". Nice work if you can get it, I suppose. Wonder what it pays?


I'm loving the little "stirring the pot" move he does for the line "Hot n' fresh out the kitchen." I also love the fact that the first line of the chorus announces that we are, in fact, listening to the remix. In fact, I love all remixes where they sing about how it's a remix. Lest there be any confusion about the matter, like, "Wait a sec, which one's the original and which one's the remix?" You forget these things sometimes, and thankfully R is there to remind you.


Wow. Excuse me, but wow. That gratuitous cornrow showcase is far and away the most out-of-left-field moment of the video. Did he really just throw in a tribute to his hairdresser? What's next, a close-up of his pedicure?


Ah yes, the white guy. Unkempt hair, ill-fitting clothes, woefully unfashionable glasses; this guy isn't even trying. He doesn't look nervous or anything, just utterly nonplussed. Disoriented by the throbbing basslines, surrounded by boisterous African-American revellers, pushed into a clearing amongst the mass of writhing, sweaty bodies... "Where the hell am I?", he wonders. Well, you can narrow it down to 49 other states, Dorothy.


And he dances! Of course. He can't help himself. "My shit is so damn funky," R exclaims, "Even white boys got to dance!" And who are we to argue? The evidence is right before us.


We cut back a few seconds later and he's still at it, and really getting into it. This is the moment for which he's been practicing alone in front of a mirror in his bedroom for like, years. The crowd gamely encourages him while maintaining their distance. After all, no one wants to be seen dancing with the white guy.


What's with the strange hammering gesture R and Cohort are doing back at IKEA? Do I want to know?


The song's winding down to the fadeout, R's giving us a bit of a coda, and takes this opportunity to remind us, once again that this is the remix.


I definitely don't want to know what that one's supposed to be.


It's the white guy! Again! He's having the time of his life! Well, he's waited years for this opportunity, for someone to just ask him to dance, and now that he's got it, by God, he's making the most of it. The crowd even seems to have accepted him at this point.


As the song fades out, we close on a shot of R in his brown basketball outfit back at IKEA, where he turns around to reveal the name Jam Master J sewn across his back. Which adds credence to my theory that the jersey is a tribute to those fallen: Left Eye on the front, JMJ on the back. Even when he parties to the breaka dawn, R never forgets to pour a little Courvoisier out. Or Crystal. It's the gesture that counts.

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