10. Tally Hall — “Banana Man”
After watching the above video, one would probably think Tally Hall ate more mushrooms than bananas when creating this clip. But, regardless of how whacked out this short may be, the Ann Arbor band deserves credit for utilizing the yellow fruit to the max for the “Banana Man” video. Just take in the rapid banana background, the randomly appearing fruits and the guy in the office whose outfit mimics an actual banana. But the best part comes near the end, when the freaky-faced lead singer starts thrusting the healthy snack at the screen joyously to the beat. Tally Hall’s banana blitzkrieg is a fine celebration of the fruit itself, and makes for a great video. Even if it will haunt your dreams for a couple months.
9. Busta Rhymes — “Pass the Courvoisier”
Rap is gluttony. Women, money, cars — as much as rappers want them, they make for hard cravings to feed. Food and liquor are other hip-hop hungers, evidenced enough by 80’s scale-tippers The Fat Boys. But the best rap video rotating around beverage is Busta Rhymes’ boozy sales pitch for “Pass the Courvoisier.”
The video (which, tragically, isn’t on YouTube, so you’ll have to do with this weird Bollywood thing I found), sees bottles and glasses of the top-notch night-capper being tossed about like punches at the Source Awards. It’s over-the-top enough to work perfectly, and, with all the drink flowing around, a great thirst-quencher as well. Double bonus: mid-video, comedian/Phat Girl Mo’Nique shows up for a cameo, and, since she’s probably eaten an entire ranch-worth of cattle, it adds even more of a culinary touch to this clip.
8. Of Montreal’s Outback Steakhouse Commercial
Music and fast food go hand in hand, from The Shins’ “New Slang” appearing in a Mickey D’s spot to Chipotle’s usually indie-leaning in-store playlists. But the ultimate example of cashing in with cool sounds by a major eatery is Outback Steakhouse’s “Let’s Go Outback Tonight” spots, which utilize a song clearly copying hipster favorite Of Montreal’s long-windedly titled “Wrath Pinned to the Mist and Other Games.” The ad focuses on a juicy piece of steak sizzling above flames while the song over it comforts us with the knowledge that, if we go Outback tonight, life will still be there tomorrow.
Why is this meat peddling piece so good? Because the spot is just so bizarre. Somehow, Outback took an already nutty Of Montreal song and made it stranger, mainly due to the implication that Outback Steakhouse serves as a realm separate from our reality, a sort of Bloomin’ Onion nirvana. But don’t worry, even if you choose to flee the doldrums of real life and bask in a wonderland of prime rib, life will still be around later. And you get stare at a hunk of meat cooking while all these existential lessons are going on. Commercialism has never tasted so good.
7. The Opening Credits to Napoleon Dynamite.
I’ll avoid the usual rant about Napoleon Dynamite and the tot-heads who still quote the film randomly and don “Vote for Pedro” t-shirts. Instead, focus on the opening credit sequence, a charming high-school nostalgia-rush full of yummy food. The sequence utilizes various items found later in the film, a fair amount of them foodstuffs, and edits them ever so slightly so a crew member’s name appears on the item. Some of the more drool-inducing items are a mustard-tagged corn dog and a sandwich. But what brings the whole opening together is the song choice, The White Stripe’s “We are Going to be Friends.” It’s a sweet retro-thinking tune that adds a school-yard sensibility to the sequence, making shots of random cafeteria staples more sentimental. Napoleon Dynamite’s opening uses food fantastically, and is much more interesting than Napoleon yelling at a llama later in the movie.
6. Shonen Knife — “Banana Chips”
Call this the Martin Scorsese of food-oriented music videos. Japan’s Shonen Knife have had better songs devoted to tasty treats, but this is the only video for one, so consider this a lifetime achievement in tastebud tunes. Shonen Knife sounds like baby Sonic Youth (or a more straightforward Deerhoof), raging guitars combined with lyrics a four-year old probably could have created. Such culinary classics include “Cookie Day” (chorus: “Cookie day/cookie day/it’s a beautiful cookie day”) and “I Wanna Eat Choco Bars” (chorus: “I like choco bars, I wanna eat choco bars/I like choco bars, I wanna eat choco bars/everytime, everywhere”). We haven’t even touched on “Flying Jelly Bean Attack” or “Hot Chocolate.”
“Banana Chips” fits perfectly in the Shonen Knife mold, with simple guitar riffs and childlike lyrics (“banana chips/banana chips/oh yeah!”). The video is an extremely cute CGI (albeit poorly done — thank goodness we have Pixar) clip featuring enough bizarre anime-like touches to make it memorable. I wish I could shoot lasers out of my eyes that could turn bananas into banana chips. But that’s just me.
5. California Raisins — “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
A lot of bands name themselves after some sort of snack, and then never incorporate said treat into their act. The Banana Splits weren’t fruit, but rather creepy Disneyland rejects. The Apples in Stereo are just 60’s psychedelic, no apples in sight. And don’t even get me started on Peter Bjorn and John, whose acronym (PB&J) implies tasty lunchtime fare, but all I get is Swedish pop.
The California Raisins were the real deal. These weren’t costumed actors or Beach Boys wannabes. These were raisins. Who could sing. In a series of commercials promoting one of the Golden State’s finest features (sorry, celebrity governors weren’t big in the 80’s), the dried grapes sang “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” in an effort to make Americans want to eat raisins. The group’s greatest moment came in “A Claymation Christmas Celebration,” a TV special featuring a bunch of clay penguins dancing around. The Raisins got their own segment, and they belted out a pretty good version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” It’s the greatest moment for all-fruit singing groups, until Bananas in Pajamas ruined it all a decade later.
4. Bjork — “Venus as a Boy”
Making food seem sexy isn’t an easy task. There’s the obvious (dude, that pickle totally looks like a…), but that’s so overplayed many wouldn’t even bother. Music videos have rarely tried to make food risqué, and when they do, the results are often Steve Urkel-awkward. Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” used fruit as a metaphor for the female derriere, but all it did for me was make trips to the produce section odd. Warrant’s clip for “Cherry Pie” tried to turn the wholesome windowsill-sitting dessert into a scandalous item, but just reminded America how lame hair-rock was. Both videos try to come off as hawt, but stretch too hard to have any appeal.
The problem with all these videos is they tried to connect snacks with sex. Icelandic song-siren Bjork, however, found the secret to making foodstuffs alluring: Don’t sexify the food, just be sexy with the food. In “Venus as a Boy,” Bjork cooks an egg, but not in the typical Emeril fashion. She coyly plays with the egg, coming off as shy but adventurous, slowly rolling it on her face. When it’s time to fry the egg, she stares at it like a schoolgirl with a crush, and treats the spatula like a toy, playfully twirling it around. “Venus as a Boy” shows sexiness can be subtle (and via an egg), and doesn’t have to be as obvious as a piece of pie falling in a girl’s cooter.
3. Matt and Kim — “Yea Yeah”
There are three things that can make a movie an instant classic in my mind: gratuitous nudity, a famous landmark blowing up or a big food fight. Brooklyn duo Matt and Kim know what makes people happy, so their video for “Yea Yeah” is nothing more than one giant Three Stooges scene.
Set in an all-white kitchen set, Matt and Kim, clad in white tees, walk in and start pounding out their power ballad. In the corner, little boxes appear showing various food items. Mysterious Master Hand-like gloves glide into the screen and hurl the snacks at Matt and Kim, who ignore the flying food and continue playing. As tomatoes, pizza and pies crash into them, the two keep rocking out, even though they become a filthy mess. After a healthy dose of flour is tossed onto them, the duo’s set gets completely decimated by guys dressed up in costumes straight from the food pyramid, making the phrase “food fight” quite literal. “Yea Yeah” is just pure grade-school fun, even if it doesn’t help world hunger one bit.
2. Weird Al — “Fat”
“Weird Al” Yankovich had released several popular albums and memorable parody songs by 1988 (most notably, “Eat It,” his spoof of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”) but it wasn’t until that year that he unveiled his first funny song that actually seemed better than the source song. His take on the King of Pop’s “Bad” took the so-so song and added a much needed dose of humor. The accompanying video for “Fat” is just as gut-busting-funny as the song itself.
A clear take off of Jackson’s video, “Fat” features very little food (in total, Weird Al gets offered a piece of pizza and eats something), but the central focus is still obesity, so it counts. The fat-suit clad parody artist dances around just like the pop king himself, but adds his own comedic flair, falling over when appropriate. This isn’t Yankovich’s best video ever (“Amish Paradise,” anyone?), but it’s up there. Just watch and enjoy.
1. Blur — “Coffee and TV”
So far, we’ve discovered you can make food scary, cute, sexy and funny, but is it possible to make food….human? All the above videos simply used various snacks as props (the only exception are the California Raisins, but they are just a bunch of dried grapes singing Christmas Carols. I don’t really feel anything toward them). British band Blur, however, charges a carton of milk with emotion for the “Coffee and TV” music video, and succeeds with flying colors.
The clip’s plot revolves around a missing boy (now-former Blur guitarist Graham Coxon) and the search to find him. Who better to search for the missing youth than an adorable carton of milk? The dairy-liquid holder (dubbed Milky by various fan sites and Wikipedia) ventures into the big city in an effort to find the lost lad. Along the way, he has to avoid weed-whackers, hyperactive children and heartbreak (I don’t step on random cartons of milk on the street anymore after watching this video). Eventually, he finds Coxon and coaxes him into returning home, but not before Coxon decided to… well, just watch the video. I’ve never felt as sad for a breakfast-time beverage as I do for Milky.
“Coffee and TV”’s protagonist seems extremely human throughout the video. Just look at his facial expressions, going from mindless joy to pure terror in a matter of seconds. But what gives Milky that extra dose of humanity are his little arms and legs, which sway freely around when he’s hopping down the street and frantically swing around when he’s running from the various terrors filling the world around him. Blur’s award-winning video takes an item completely devoid of emotion and turns it into the most human character in the entire clip. This video turns a food item into a character whom viewers legitimately care for, and that’s pretty darn impressive.