Kofi's hat

Kofi's hat

MP3s, music news and reviews, and a sprinkling of pop culture. Named by Aqualung's Matt Hales, after his son.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

Ink in my blood, a song in my heart. Metaphor is my middle name.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Supermarket Videos

It recently occurred to me that a lot of videos are set in supermarkets... and I started to make a list.

Tracey Ullman - They Don't Know (1983):

In the video for Ullman's Kirsty MacColl cover, a supermarket is used to help depict the unglamorous reality of settling down and having kids when you're not well-off. Ullman's hair is a mess, her face appears free of make-up, and she's wearing slippers. Before the supermarket scene she was quite well-groomed and wearing gobs of lip gloss. In the market she wearily pushs the cart (complete with young daughter) down the aisle. But soon her spirits triumphs, and she spins the cart into a dance. At the end of the video, you see how content she is.

Jane's Addiction - Been Caught Stealing (1990):

The "Been Caught Stealing" video is vastly overexposed. It features crossdressing shoplifters, so it may seem a surefire way of getting "the kids"' attention. But what is stolen first? Vegetables and fruits! Produce lobbyist payola could be the reason why this video is so wildly overplayed. We can't be sure; all we can do is reject the carrots, pineapples, and such that Jane's Addiction so enthusiastically shoved up their skirts.

Radiohead - Fake Plastic Trees (1995):

Director Jake Scott calls the classic clip "an allegory for death and reincarnation" but thinks anyone who sees that meaning is "weird". So feel free to substitute your own meaning, as long as you know it won't be the one they intended.

Pulp - Common People (1995):

A few months after "Fake Plastic Trees" came another classic video in which the group's singer rides in a supermarket cart. Last year's BBC documentary "The Story of Pulp's Common People" recounts the creation of the song as well as the video. In Part 4 (of the clips kindly posted to YouTube), director Pedro Romhanyi matter-of-factly explains, "There's a line that says 'I took her to the supermarket.' So we did a scene in the supermarket." (The line is actually "I took her to a supermarket."

There's also more to it than that. It isn't as though singer Jarvis Cocker and actor Sadie Frost (who portrays the posh Greek student studying sculpture at St. Martin's College) merely walk through an ordinary supermarket aisle. Cocker, like Yorke, rides in a supermarket cart. He's shown as tiny, trapped in a large trolley pushed by his new friend. The colors in the store are extreme and jarring - bright yellow, fuschia, and purple. Among the products on the shelves are boxes labeled Pulp, an apparent statement on the commodification of their music. A video is, after all, an advertisement.

Emily Haines - Dr. Blind (2006):

A friend suggested the Haines clip for my Supermarket Videos collection. I initially protested that it didn't seem like it was set in a supermarket. He said it may be a hypermarket, a term I could hardly resist sharing, regardless of the video's setting.

It seems as though he's right, as the video's director, Jaron Albertin, says singer Emily Haines, wanted to shoot in "a massive Wal-mart type store" Wal-mart is an example of a hypermarket, "a superstore which combines a supermarket and a department store".

Haines says she wanted to convey a "disorienting, paranoid, fear" in the video, in which she, and several other people are trapped in this hypermarket when it abruptly closes. She and Albertin sound very earnest in describing the "surreal" feeling they wanted to bring to the clip, but I just find it incredibly dull. There's a difference between haunting and boring.

Nerina Pallot - Everybody's Gone to War (2006):

Marc Klasfeld directed this video in which Pallot sings about war while dodging a foodfight. She eventually strikes a Christ-like pose and is pelted with food. I've previously criticized this video for striking an inappropriately light-hearted tone given the nature of the song (it's about the Iraq War). I have a problem with the song as well; it feels both too breezy and overwraught to me. But the video seems altogether weird, an odd choice if motivated by artistic reasons.

The Hours - Love You More (2007):

It's unfortunate a top-notch song was given such a shabby video. The supermarket isn't a necessary setting, so it shouldn't have been used. One by one a few women are shown, in slow motion, dancing in a supermarket aisle. Each is wearing a uniform apron. The song is directed to one person, but perhaps these are supposed to be women he has felt that way about at different points of his life and they all happen to work at the same supermarket. What a wacky coincidence; it should be a sitcom! Or perhaps the song is playing at the market and everyone is taking turns slowly dancing to it instead of working. If the happy, dancing women were in a park or the mall, the impact, whatever it may be would have been the same. A setting shouldn't be used just because someone thinks of it, or because it's cheap. That's not creative or interesting.

Travis - Closer (2007):

In Travis' bubbly clip, singer Fran Healy stands outside a supermarket dressed as a bear. He takes off his bear head in front of a young boy, possibly scarring him for life, and heads inside to use the store's PA system to sing. Ben Stiller, slumming for the night as a grocery store manager, is upset by the happy music because he is The Man. Fortunately every time he exits his tiny miserable office, the sunny pop of Travis is replaced by boring music. Store employees, i.e. the band, pick up instruments to play. People are brought together by the band's sweet music, and everyone's content... except a thin man crushed by a large woman hugging him. That bit's intended as humorous, but it's dated and just unfortunate. I'm thin, and didn't think it was funny. The video is otherwise sweet, but ordinary, nothing special.

The supermarket is such a relateable setting, and rather obvious go-to for bands, but for those very reasons it would be great if bands passed it over as a video setting unless they intend to use it in a creative way. And they shouldn't rush to use convenience stores instead.

Hmm, videos set in convenience stores...

Other Supermarket Videos:

The Mavericks reportedly dance in a supermarket in the video for their 1998 single "Dance The Night Away". I haven't seen the video, but if that's all there is to it, it sounds pretty boring.

Starfighter's 2005 video for "#1 Today", in which a guy dressed as a big 1 cheerfully travels into town and encounters a mixed reception, includes a very brief supermarket scene. Our #1 guy enters the market, looks around, walks by the produce unnoticed, and then the next thing we know he's sitting on a bench at a mall. The market's a brightly lit, colorful place, but there's hardly anyone there, and no one pays attention to him. The market serves a purpose, then.

Supermarket Videos Playlist on YouTube (which I'll keep adding to; there are no doubt more supermarket videos...)

The Story Of Pulp's Common People: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

The Raincoats - Fairytale In The Supermarket (on Raincoats)


Blogger Carmen said...

Hey, I am looking for a video to an electronic music track recorded around the middle od the 90's. There are some young people dancing in the supermarket while taking their clothes off. Sorry I don't remember more details...

6:44 PM  
Blogger trill42 said...

Thanks for posting, but sorry - the description isn't ringing any bells...

1:54 PM  

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