Marketing Misery

Is Saint Durst the new, limp Bono?

Nothing is more obscene than witnessing a pop star mine the misery of others as a launch pad for personal exposure. I don't buy this crap, not when it's burped from the lips of Saint Durst, and neither should you.

The all-star video redo of Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On," conceived by Bono (who else?) and Jermaine Dupri, shows an eerie narcissism among its participants, particularly Saint Durst. Originally intended to debut on AIDS Day to benefit the AIDS relief effort, the proceeds from the single are now split between the United Way's September 11 fund and AIDS relief organizations. The video, a pastiche of performances in the recording studio, shows Saint Durst in a moment of glorious self-love. He's seen rocking to his own whiney hip-hop bastardization of the song while listening back in the control room. It's as if He's there and He's all that matters. There is no sense of generosity of spirit, no sense of selfless love for the hurting. No sense of anything that he's been spouting in the press. What's more, you sense the same narcissism in the other participants. At one point, a member of Destiny's Child is seen looking at herself longingly in a studio window reflection as the song pumps through the studio speakers.

Overall it is a hideous display of selfishness; a marketing scheme to further careers based on the death of mothers, fathers, lovers, husbands and children. In the video, only Bono -- who can be a downright vainglorious mook in times like these -- shows any sign of dignity. One grainy shot catches on his face the look of vague disgust. Perhaps it's all the appalling we're-doing-something-really-really-important-here posturing?

Durst's efforts reveal a man who so desperately wants to become a member of the pop-star elite. To hobnob with Bono, trawl for booty at the Playboy mansion, have dinner with the prez. Christ, he's directed a few crap rock videos and he thinks he's Oliver Stone.

Hey, Saint Durst: Why not clam up and do something that could really count? Something fat-hearted and respectful, like unloading some of your bank accounts in an anonymous manner to help those in need. But anonymity doesn't move any Limp product, now does it?

Obligatory reviews:

The Cranberries
Wake up and Smell the Coffee (MCA)

Thirteen songs that flirt with themes of death, lost love, and the value of gaining an eye for beauty. In the hands of a capable pop band, ideas like those could be seeds for greatness. Wake Up and Smell the Coffee is like any other Cranberries record and is distinguished by milky folk-pop hooks, overtly precious singing on the part of Dolores O'Riordan Burton, and sleepy songs. Your mom might dig this.

Human League
Secrets (Ark 21)

Jesus, it's a spanking new 1981 reference point, all shallow, shifty and silly. Blah. Picture Dare with drum loops and seven instrumentals. The voices of Philip Oakley, Susanne Sulley and Joanne Cathrell haven't aged a day and neither have their silly rhyme schemes. Synthpop redux. Secrets is cold, icy, angular and unfun, just like it was two decades ago.

And in a recent photo, the trio can be seen wearing the same pointy edged get-ups! Yikes! Secrets, however, does see a timely release date; it hits the bins the day before Halloween. . . .

The Strokes
Is This It (RCA)

I hate the fact that the singer's pop is John Casablancas and the word is it was pop's money that indirectly got them a record deal and into the pages of Rolling Stone before they even played their fifth gig. I hate the fact that they all have had privileged upbringings. I hate that I saw their Roman Coppola-directed video on MTV during prime time last night and it's purposely shot to look "grainy" and "amateur." I hate that everyone, I mean everyone, says they are the saviors, the Great White Hope of rock 'n' roll. I hate that their record is No. 2 on the British pop charts. I hate that in Britain they are royalty. I hate the fact that people are suggesting "The Strokes" is American for rock 'n' roll.

I hate the fact that they're really just average. I hate average. The Strokes are average, yes, but come armed with a heavy sense of musical irony. So much so that people compare them to smart groundbreakers like Television and Blondie and Lou Reed and Wire. But nowhere on this record is there a song nearly as good as "Glory," or "Union City Blue," or "Vicious," or "Outdoor Miner." Hey kids, history doesn't start now.

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