Favorite PVs of 2005: #10, Teriyaki Boyz’ “HeartBreaker”

Filed in Cult Of Pop 2.0

A few of the selections in my Top 10 are guilty pleasures: something common sense tells me I should dislike – or at the very least, not admit openly I enjoy so much. This Teriyaki Boyz PV certainly counts as one of them, but it’s such a perverse joy – the song as well as the video – that I might as well sing my love for it from the rooftops.

A rap video that begins with a UFO cow abduction – in the middle of Tokyo, apparently – is destined for either greatness or utter failure…

And Beatles cosplay? Shit, you had me at hello, Verbal.

The song itself sticks with me, though I didn’t think it’d stick this much. I don’t know if I can take a whole album of this, but the lurching old-school beat is ridiculously goofy fun. The odd part is, the instrumentation isn’t old school – it would’ve been easier if they pulled out something that truly dated from 1982 or whenever, but instead they use a sci-fi sounding synth that makes it sound spacey.

This is, by the way, the only song / video I’ve played at my former workplace that was greeted with threats of violence. My co-workers actually hated this song, thinking it was embarassingly bad rap music from another shore. They didn’t get the genius behind it all.

The beat forces each MC to be more distinctive. A bad rapper would simply stick to the beat and just let it carry him metronomically, dully mirroring the rhythm because it’s so overwhelming. The Teriyaki Boyz work with the beat, but they also spin rhymes around it, the way a child bends his body in and around a jungle gym. Wise and Ilmari do particularly great jobs of this – letting their words take the beat into unexpected places rhythmically. We’re not talking GZA style acrobatics, but it’s still impressive.

"Kampai!!!"

I’ve written before about hating the cult of authenticity. Why must rap music depend so heavily on being street? If you aren’t actually street, why bother to put on that act?

If anything this video goes out of its way to be as non-street as possible – in its defiantly odd sound, its use of motifs, as well as its setting. Can you get any less street than the inside of a spaceship? (Well, maybe a quarry at Bedrock…) Though I’m guessing it’s calculated, I’d say they create a Python-esque insanity here – that is, the creeping suspicion that behind the surface weirdness is an honest deep-dish weirdness yearning to express itself fully.

The images and the way they play off each other seem to tell a story – are the Teriyaki Boyz the alien abductors? What’s the deal with the camouflage-painted car? Why steal a chicken if you’ve already got a cow?

Even the use of requisite hottie is poked fun at: she appears to be an abductee, just like the cow. This may or may not be a statement on how rap music can objectify women… That said, I think she kinda looks like Eliza Dushku in a camo minidress. Which is good enough for me.

The point of the Beatles joke? No freakin’ clue, but it is funny. It catches you off-guard, and watching them have fun with this cosplay, swaying as if it was 1964 all over again. And yet in the world of this PV, this makes sense as well…

And the "street" clothes – caps, self-titled T-shirts, shades, mandatory bling – is so obviously another slap against hip hop convention. What it reminds me of is that cel phone commercial with the "whack" hip hop crew – a strange joke on how urban iconography has been appropriated and disassociated by the clueless. Except in Teriyaki Boyz’ case, they’re in on the joke. It’s another cosplay, like their Beatles outfit.

I love this shot on so many levels. The MCs have literally placed this woman on a pedestal, giving her some kind of respect. In your typical rap video, she would have been shaking her ass vigorously or being groped while Cristal is poured on her. (Two things that I’m sure we’ll see in C-Ute’s debut PV.) Instead she stands still in a defiant pose, waiting for the men to prove themselves to her. And one of them just pokes at her from behind – like a little boy on a dare. Or, to take into account the setting, like a human anal probe.

As for the poultry and cattle motif… well, I think there’s not enough of that in music. Now that I think of it, how come there weren’t any farm animals running around in Morning Musume’s "Dance Suru No Da" PV?

I’m not all that well-versed in Japanese rap, so I’m sure there’s aspects of all this I’m missing. That said, I’m a fan of Rip Slyme and it’s great to see two of their MCs in the Teriyaki Boyz. I’m also appreciating m-flo after Kouhaku, and seeing Verbal here probably helped. (Though really, it was Wada Akiko in the disco ball.)

In a year when there wasn’t any new Rip Slyme, this may seem like half-assed compensation. And if there was a new Rip Slyme this year, it’d probably have edged out this PV with little effort – as much fun as these guys have, the overall chemistry of Rip Slyme is more engaging. But on its own merits, "HeartBreaker" still stands well.

The obvious comparison for an old-timer like me is Paul’s Boutique era Beastie Boys, or De La Soul – goofing off for the sake of goofing off, realizing that hip hop is a broad canvas which allows many forms of expression. The hardcore gangsta preening and slick urban lothario vibe have both been played out, so why not try something different? Why not have fun and let your audience have fun with you? That seemsto be the ethic behind the song and PV – it’s a slick production overall, but designed to show some obvious conceptual seams. I’m almost tempted to say it’s deconstructionist, but would refuse to stand behind such a claim…

Maybe I’ll give the Teriyaki Boyz album a try later this year. Certainly, I look forward to new material from Rip Slyme. As for this PV and its merits, it’s a gimmick song that’s more than a gimmick, a joke that’s more than laughable. I can’t help but feel there’s more lurking there, and yet the surface is so engaging I keep forgetting to look beneath. It’s the rapper as a trickster figure – depth hiding behind an obvious display of shallowness (something Rip Slyme and their proteges Halcali also specialize in). It’s a fine example of savants posing as idiots, which is really one of the great traditions of pop music.

Next: #9 is another guilty pleasure.

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2 Responses to “Favorite PVs of 2005: #10, Teriyaki Boyz’ “HeartBreaker””
  1. Shay says:

    I see that we have a common favorite PV! YAY! I wrote my post about the TB video yesterday and found your site today. That’s coincidently cool I guess. 😀

  2. Shay says:

    Say, I misread the date of your post…my bad, my bad. :S