The music video is probably the least relevant thing in the music industry right now. I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think MTV actually plays them anymore at all, leaving that to sister channels like MTV2 and MTVU. However, I owe a lot to the format, as it was my main source for music back when I was 12 or 13. This was when bands like Good Charlotte, Simple Plan, Sum 41, etc. were all getting huge airplay and attention (they were actually bigger than a lot of hip-hop artists, which is hard to believe now). Once I discovered how much more effectively I could waste my time on the Internet as opposed to watching television, I stopped watching music videos for a few years.
Over time, MTV reintroduced things like Headbanger’s Ball and created MTVU (MTV University), the channel that plays everything from MGMT to Underoath to KiD CuDi, which lead to a resurgence in my interest in music videos. Steven’s Untitled Rock Show on FUSE helped as well because Steven was what I like to call “not an idiot” and played some great bands. FUSE also had that hot metal VJ who played bands that were actually quite shit, like Trivium.
Anyway, these days Youtube has taken MTV’s place as the major source for music videos. Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” video has over 200 million (!!) views. However, I would wager that the average person doesn’t focus on the video. They probably open up another tab and let the song play in the background while they check their Facebook. A lot can change in a few years though. Back in 2007 the music video was still a fairly hot commodity, and many pop artists started putting a bit more effort into their videos, turning them into these weird short film type things, where the song would regularly be paused to showcase a scene that had dialogue between characters. It would be a cool idea if it wasn’t so pointless and executed so poorly. For a music video to be good or at least “cool,” all it needs is fantastic visuals. That’s the whole point of a music video: to supplement the song with video. I can understand that some artists feel the need to turn it into more than that, but couldn’t they at least put some more effort into it?
Wyclef Jean’s 2007 single “Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill)” is a prime example of this. Instead of immediately playing the song that it’s supposed to be advertising, the video instead begins with a scene in which it is implied that Wyclef is basically a black James Bond being given a secret mission by Some Guy on Some Device made by Sony that I have never seen before. It looks too big to be a phone but if Wyclef was using it in a video then it was probably popular for a few days or so. Anyway the guy talking to Wyclef has an accent which in movies is used to give someone mystique and authority. Because of this, we’re supposed to disregard the fact that what he’s saying is completely stupid. Wyclef’s mission is to stop a woman from being deported back to a “hostile country,” although judging from the pictures on Wyclef’s super-phone, the country appears quite nice.
Wyclef’s unnamed boss says her name is something like “Ayabungo,” and if you immediately thought of the Ninja Turtles’ catchphrase “Cowabunga!” then you are not alone. That’s the extent of Wyclef’s information. Her name is Ayabungo, she’s going to be deported, and Wyclef has to stop that from happening. Instead of asking what makes her so important or why she’s going to be deported, or even what hostile country she’s going back to, Wyclef dives into action (after grabbing his guitar and switching out his stupid hat for an equally stupid bandanna).
The scene shifts to an Immigrant Transition camp, and it’s here where we realize that the video has nothing to do with the lyrics, and if it DOES somehow have something to do with the lyrics, then Ayabungo is actually a stripper/hooker that America simply cannot live without. Akon and Lil Wayne are also awaiting word on whether or not they’ll be deported. Wyclef is there, so we can assume that he has infiltrated the camp to get close to the subject of his mission. He’s even been keeping a diary which is sort of overboard. I mean, he actually doesn’t even do anything proactive about the situation, but more on that later. He reads from his diary, calling Ayabungo “the sweetest girl” even though he had to be briefed on who she is before embarking on the mission. Meanwhile, Lil Wayne blows smoke out of his nose and Akon wipes his sweaty face with a napkin.
Just how Wyclef intends to rescue Ayabungo is never made entirely clear. He spends most of the video sitting on his ass playing his guitar and writing in his journal (which appears to be made out of ancient papyrus), occasionally coming out of his tent to stand there with a look of utmost concentration on his face. Even when immigration officers grab Ayabungo roughly by the arm and usher her into a tent, Wyclef simply stands there looking shiny and perplexed.
Inside the tent, an intimidating immigration officer says two words: “passport” and “Ayabungo.” After he says the first word, she hands over her passport. He glances at it cursorily and then pronounces her name. He seems to internally decide that it is the dumbest name he has ever heard and then declares that she will be deported based on how stupid her name is.
Wyclef shows how much this pisses him off by sedately walking around the camp with Akon at his side, eventually wandering into a tent to accompany Lil Wayne’s verse on guitar. At this point, night has fallen and, either because she’s going to be deported or because she doesn’t enjoy Wayne’s rapping, she makes the biggest Molotov cocktail ever out of everyday refugee camp items.
She then throws it at one of the tents, which we’ll assume is the immigration officers’ tent, effectively creating a distracting commotion and DOING WYCLEF’S JOB FOR HIM. Wyclef decides it’s finally time to get his ass in gear. He grabs Ayabungo and they start to escape the camp. A few of the immigration officers try to stop them but Wyclef beats them down with moves that would make Neo from The Matrix proud. He starts off simple by kneeing one of them in the crotch. But then he kicks things into overdrive and performs a backflip kick on the next guard. If that wasn’t enough, he grabs the next guard by the head. With his feet. And then he flips him over. With his feet.
After defeating all the guards in the entire camp (there are around four of them), Wyclef and Ayabungo run toward the camera and disappear, and we are left to assume that Ayabungo is going to start a prosperous life in Miami as a hooker. Akon and Lil Wayne presumably stay behind and are burned alive inside of the camp, which is why Akon hasn’t been heard from since 2007.
So what did we learn from this video?
– Wyclef is a secret agent.
– Wyclef is lazy.
– You can be deported for having a stupid name.
– America loves strippers and hookers.
– Wyclef can do backflip kicks.
Not bad for a hip-hop music video. I’d give it a 3.5/5.