Showing posts with label Then and Now. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Then and Now. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Telltale Signs Children of the 90s are Getting Older

You knew it would happen, you just never imagined it would happen to you. One day you’re raging against the machine and bringing the man down while wearing flannel (or if you were more like me, grooving to Ace of Base on your Walkman while donning a Blossom hat) and the next you’re shaking your fist in a crotchety manner and muttering incoherently about the trouble with “kids today.” Where do the years go?

Getting older is inevitable, but the gradual onset of adulthood makes it difficult to pinpoint that exact moment you start to worry about the health of your 401K and can sustain lengthy dinner party conversations about mortgage rates and homeowner association costs. Just in case you’ve been building up a thick shield of denial, Children of the 90s is here to break it down and point out all the glaring signs that you’re just not as young as you used to be. Sounds like fun, right? Here goes:

The Shows you Grew Up With are on Nick at Nite

When we were kids, Nick at Nite was a block of television that featured significantly older and largely black and white sitcoms like I Love Lucy and The Munsters. At some point I must have stopped watching because I was recently shocked to learn that Nick at Nite now plays Home Improvement and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. When did all of the things I grew up with get so retro? Do kids today think of Full House the same way I thought of Mr. Ed? A terrifying prospect indeed.

The Kids on The Real World keep getting Younger

When The Real World premiered in 1992, its stars seemed so grown-up to us children of the 90s. Fast forward 25 seasons and a suspicious trend is emerging: the cast members not only seem to be growing less relevant and more obscure with each year, but also significantly younger. Some may argue that we’re just getting older, but I think it’s all a matter of perspective.

You Still Think of Actors as the Iconic Characters they Portrayed in their Youth

Perhaps you find yourself wondering why Zach Morris from Saved by the Bell and Travis from Clueless are pretending to be lawyers together weeknights on TNT. Or, alternatively, you’re still marveling that Clarissa Darling and Blossom’s brother are involved in weekly madcap manny adventures. Regardless of all of the mold-breaking and serious roles these former teen actors undertake, it can be hard to remove them from the context of the Bop! magazine pullout posters that once plastered our walls.

Your Favorite Teen Pop Stars are Constantly Staging Comebacks

It may seem like only yesterday that young stars like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were shocking audiences with their bare midriffs and provocative dancing, but they’ve long since been replaced by a new generation of teen stars. The teen pop stars we grew up with are desperately clinging to their former sex-symbol statuses, and while many have managed to remain in the limelight it’s often been through tightly managed “comeback” moves and constant reinvention.

Rap Songs all Sound the Same, and the ones you like are by Artists who have been around Twenty Years

Case in point: I still love Jay-Z. His current age? 41. Hardly a representative of young folks today. Other pertinent examples: Snoop Dogg (age 39), P. Diddy (age 41) , Dr. Dre (age 46), Eminem (age 38), 50 Cent (age 35), Nelly (age 36)....need I go on?

It’s finally happened: I’ve turned into the old person who changes the radio station when an irritatingly repetitive rap song comes on. I find myself complaining about the lack of creativity, vulgar lyrics, and overly catchy hooks I can’t get out of my head. When a new rap song I like comes on, nine times out of ten the rapper is older than 35 and has been churning out hits since the early 90s.

Hollywood is already Remaking the Movies you Watched as a Kid

The movie industry is clearly low on new ideas. How else can you explain remaking films as recent as The Karate Kid, Footloose, The Bodyguard, and Total Recall? There are kids out there who don’t even know there was an original Karate Kid, or even if they do, they’re disappointed he couldn’t rap and wasn’t featured in a Justin Bieber song. Truly tragic.

You’ve Lived Through a Full Cycle of Fashion

All you have to do is walk into an American Apparel or Urban Outfitters to realize that their “new arrival” items are a reboot of the what you used to wear in junior high. A quick glance at the American Apparel website shows items like light wash high waisted jeans, neon scrunchies, leggings, and bodysuits. If only you had saved your middle school wardrobe, you’d save yourself a lot of money on new clothes.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Number One Hits of 1995

Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to my local radio station’s “90s Dance Party,” leading me to conclude that--whether for nostalgic or empirical reasons--90s music is far more effective in making my friends and I want to get up and move. Music has a great way of jarring long-latent (or long-repressed) memories, recharging memories and corresponding emotions you had long since forgotten. For example, I can’t hear “California Love” without being immediately transported back in time to the roller rink in fifth grade during couple’s skate. The two are forever linked in my mind.

Whatever your personal connections to the songs, 1995 was a great year for number ones. With its cheesy power ballads, corny duets, and line dance fads, 1995 undoubtedly provided the soundtrack for many of our earliest boy-girl parties. At roller rinks and middle school dances across the globe, preteens awkwardly snowballed to “Always be my Baby,” unaware of the irony that they would probably never see this person again come high school.

One Sweet Day, Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men

Holding steady at number one for a record 16 weeks on the Billboard charts, Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” was a major hit of the mid-90s. It’s not the happiest of songs--”One Sweet Day” was actually cobbled together from several germinations of mourning/tribute-type songs in the works by the two artists. The message is ultimately positive, though, celebrating that we will one day be reunited with our loved ones.

The video, however, leaves much more to be desired. I understand that both recording artists had to go through a lengthy course to write and record the song, but it seems that the video should have more to it than just a straight capture of that process. To their credit, though, the writing and recording as it appeared in the video was just how I imagined it.

Because You Loved Me, Celine Dion

Celine Dion is queen of the cheesy, over-the-top power ballad genre, and “Because You Loved Me” definitely delivers on her claim to fame. It performed well on the charts, holding particularly steady at number one on the Adult Contemporary chart. Success on the Adult Contemporary chart usually earns you a place in the Easy Listening hall of fame, meaning Dion’s ballad was destined for constant replay in dentist waiting rooms and grocery store aisles worldwide.

Always Be My Baby, Mariah Carey

It’s somewhat amazing to think that Mariah Carey has managed to maintain such a steady level of fame over the last 15 years. Sure, she had her Glitter debacle and other personal setbacks, but she’s still putting out hits as high-charting as she was back in 1995. “Always Be My Baby” is a fun, upbeat song with lots of “do-do-do-dums”, making it both easily to sing along to and impossible to get out of your head.

Tha Crossroads, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

Along the same vein as “One Sweet Day,” Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s “The Crossroads” was also paid tribute to a late friend. While Bone Thugs were well-known for their quick rhymes laden with profanities, they toned it down and sweetened it up for their quieter hit “Tha Crossroads. Who knew band members with such easy-to-take-serious names as Wish Bone, Krayzie Bone, Layzie Bone, and Bizzy Bone could deliver such a heartfelt song?

California Love, 2Pac featuring Dr Dre and Roger Troutman

“California Love” helped make the late rapper 2Pac a household name among even the least credible of rap music aficionados. The repetitive chorus and hooks make this another song that happily lodges itself in your brain, guaranteeing you will be singing it internally for at least the remainder of the day. In my case, too, I’m destined to spend the day humming the tune and remembering my heyday at the roller rink. Ah, the memories.

Macarena, Los Del Rio

No list of 1995 hits would be complete without mentioning the all-encompassing omnipresent Macarena. Bad dancers everywhere breathed a sigh of relief that they would no longer be required to come up with their own moves. The Macarena made it easy to simply extend your arms, turn them over, bend them up, touch your head, throw in a little hip shake, and go. Thanks to Los Del Rio, we can all look back at those old wedding and bar mitzvah party videos and cringe at our sheeplike eagerness to be a part of a fleeting fad.

No Diggity, Blackstreet featuring Dr. Dre

This song came on the other day when I was at a party and I couldn’t believe how many people in attendance still knew all of the words. For those of us who have trouble studying or balancing our checkbooks, it’s probably because our brain is crammed full with useless Blackstreet lyrics. Nevertheless, there are worse things to fill up our brain space; “No Diggity” has catchy lyrics and a great beat. I’d much rather be able to belt out, “Baby you’re a perfect ten/I want to get it/So can I get down so I can win” than balance my checkbook, anyway.

You’re Makin’ Me High/Un-Break My Heart (Toni Braxton)

Just in case you thought Celine Dion had the monopoly on cheesy power ballads, it’s important we draw some attention to the big-voiced Ms. Braxton and her own corner of the power ballad market. Both of these songs off her Secrets album reached number one in 1995, establishing her as a major player in the R&B scene. Clearly her fame has dwindled slightly over the years, though; I don’t see Celine Dion succumbing to the allure of Dancing With the Stars’ almighty paycheck.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Stars of Saved by the Bell: Where are they Now?

With murmurs of a reunion circulating for nearly a year now, many children of the 90s have been eagerly awaiting the return of their favorite cheesy Bayside-set sitcom. Although various permutations of the series ran a welcome-outwearing seven seasons, nostalgic 90s’ kids are still for the most part willing to embrace yet another reunion special. For everyone except Screech, that is. He turned out to be a real jerk. Maybe they’ll bring his robot Rosie back instead. I always liked her better, anyway.

A reunion part may be a much-welcome role for many of these grown-up actors; while many of their careers were once stalled by enduring Saved by the Bell typecasting, they must be getting sick of playing serious brooding villains by this point. It’s about time to come full circle and embrace the corny after school special quality that earned them fame the first time around.

Most of the show’s stars have aimed their career goals at the furthest possible point from their teen idol days, though they have achieved adult stardom with varying levels of success. Some managed to break out of the Saved by the Bell box while others continued milking it for all its worth over a decade later. Here’s a glimpse into the stars’ acting resumes since Zack and Kelly’s wedding special:

Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar)

Gosselaar taught us all an important lesson in reinventing yourself after a successful run as a blond teenager: go brunet. Following the show’s cancellation, Gosselaar dyed his hair a dark brown, ensuring that even his most devoted fans could see him on the big screen and think, “Who is that?”

Like all teen stars in the 90s trying to break out of their goody goody image, Gosselaar first took on made-for-TV movie She Cried No in which he date-rapes Candace Cameron (aka DJ Tanner) at a college party. I guess she hadn’t learned her lesson from being abused by Fred Savage in No One Would Tell.

Gosselaar went on to take on a number of serious roles including NYPD Blue and his current stint as a lawyer on TNT’s Raising the Bar. He still looks pretty good with the brown hair, but it’s just not the same as our favorite blond beach bum. Girls in their 20s and 30s everywhere swooned when he donned the blond wig for his Jimmy Fallon appearance.

Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani Amber Theissen)

Kelly was America’s sweetheart, so it’s no surprise Theissen sought an immediate post-Saved by the Bell role that took her far into the opposite direction. Theissen landed a major role as bad girl Valerie on the long-running Beverly Hills 90210 in 1994. From that point on, she became a major force in abhorrently cheesy made-for-TV movies, took an ill-advised role in Pauly Shore vehicle Son-in-Law, and landed some guest spots and bit parts in a number of TV series.

Samuel “Screech” Powers (Dustin Diamond)

When you’re a one-note actor like Diamond, continual fame has to be wrenched through shocking public behavior and bad-mouthing of former castmates. Diamond was the only original cast member who played the same role from Good Morning, Miss Bliss to Saved by the Bell: The New Class. After over 10 years as Screech, it was understandably tough for him to transition to other, less irritating roles.

Diamond descended into despair in the mid-2000s when he publicly attempted to raise money to save his home from going into foreclosure. He also released a raunchy and disturbing sex tape, appeared on numerous reality shows including Celebrity Fit Club, and writing a tell-all book implicating his SbtB costars in some not-so-wholesome behavior. Clearly someone didn’t get the meaning behind Zack Attack’s “Friends Forever.”

Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies)

Voorhies actually did fairly well for awhile with major running roles on soap operas, though her religious beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness precluded her from acting in the sex scenes required of her roles. Relinquishing her soap parts, apparently Voorhies’ moral ground still allowed her to take a major role in the stoner film How High.

To be fair, she did do some other miscellaneous legitimate sitcom stints on shows like Family Matters and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. For your 90s trivia facts, she also starred in Boyz II Men’s “On Bended Knee” music video. Add a role in Star Trek: Deep Space 9 and you’ve got yourself a well-rounded resume of obscurity.

Albert Clifford “AC” Slater (Mario Lopez)

It almost pains me to say that Lopez seems the clear front-runner for the title of most successful Saved by the Bell alum. It’s not so much that he exhibits superior acting talent, but perhaps that his less than discriminate agent has signed him onto the task of hosting or participating in every gossip show, dance competition, or beauty pageant that came his way. There’s no denying that Lopez is something of a better looking, more muscular, more vaguely Latino Ryan Seacrest. We’ll just call him the second hardest-working man in Hollywood.

Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley)

If you’re ever looking for a lesson in killing your career through drastic anti-typecasting measures, you may want to look to Elizabeth Berkley for some tips. Sick of her good girl image, Berkley sought to break out of the wholesome box with an ill-fated career nosedive into the film Showgirls. The movie was a tacky, X-rated excuse for nudity and laughably bad acting, leaving Berkley far worse off than if she’d simply stuck to Jessie Spano territory. She’s some some bit parts since then, but her career never quite recovered from Showgirls syndrome.

Tori Scott (Leanna Creel)

Last but not least, let us not forget Tori of the ever-confusing late-season character switcharoo. Kelly and Jessie exit stage left, Tori enters stage right, one season elapses and they all switch back as if nothing had happened. The actress that played Tori is actually an identical triplet, giving her license to star with her sisters in the third and fourth installments of the Parent Trap series. She know wisely works as a producer and filmmaker, putting her days typecast as the tough-talking leather jacket-clad girl who is everyone’s best friend for just a single season.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

AOL/AIM Guide for the Perplexed 90s Child

I had the abrupt realization the other day that I no longer use America Online Instant Messenger (AIM). Their instant messaging program used to be the very cornerstone of my existence, and it's simply faded into the obscurity of my impending (okay, imminent) adulthood. Though functions like Facebook Chat and GChat keep us messaging our friends instantly, the loss I mourn is of our quirky but universal rules of AIM etiquette and practice.

Hearken back, if you will, to a time before Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and all other social media. Back when your online persona had a single avenue of emergence. When our away messages, chat icons, and AIM profiles defined us so completely to our judgmental online peers. A time when just the right balance of ~*~*~* to words with aLtErNaTiNg CaPiTaL aNd LoWeR cAsE lEtTeRs were enough to make your profile sparkle.

Yes, it was a simpler time. My boyfriend and I were discussing the issue and he mentioned his previous middle school AIM addiction that bordered on meriting a 12-step program. "I remember thinking to myself that if I were really rich, I would make a handheld device so I could take AIM wherever I went," he mentioned. Just imagine how it would shock his middle school self to learn that nearly every one of us has one of these in our purse or pocket right now. They're called cell phones.

Evidence of a simpler time. Oh AOLBuddy and InternetFriend, how we miss your newbie-like innocence

Before we were constantly plugged in to ten different networks of social media, we were a single-minded bunch. There were a complex set of unwritten rules that governed our AIM behavior. Let's explore a few of the universal norms and mores that drove our socially conscious AIM activity:

Create a Screen Name that Conveys Your Personality

Generally, these types of screen names included words like "Sweet" and "QTpie" for a girl and sports or athlete names for boys. Because our middle school minds were so achingly unoriginal, at your suggestion of a screenname AIM would inevitably spit back something like, "How about QTpie18483134852?"

Inclusion of birth year, age, or graduation year numbers was a popular motif, one that would likely have brought many of us into To Catch a Predator-like scenarios in the current online climate. In the early days of AIM, choosing a non-conventional or highly unique and personalized screenname was akin to social suicide. Yes, we had 12 versions of KittenLuver on our buddy lists, but it was far better than having been perceived as an individual.

Read Everyone's Away Message Religiously and Addictively

Nowadays we can get our fix via Facebook or Twitter, but it was back in the AIM glory days that we first grew enamored with the notion of broadcasting our every activity cyberworldward. If God forbid our internet was ever down, we would shake and convulse with the pains of voyeurism withdrawal.

Update Your Own Away Message to Show How Interesting, Witty, and Popular you Are

Helpful Hint: Single word informative away messages are always a social faux pas. To simply write "Showering" or "Eating" is the equivalent of admitting how boring and mundane your life really is. No, you needed to be "Gettin' my shower on" or "Foodin' it up" instead. See how much more interesting you seem?

More often than not, it was important to let people know that not only were you out doing something, but that you weren't alone. "Out with my girls!" or "Playin Bball with Dave and Dan" were variations on socially acceptable norms. No one would ever, ever write "Quietly reading alone in my room". The only time you were allowed to be alone was while studying, and you better have used that away message to complain about it or you'd be suspected of (gasp!) enjoying schoolwork. For shame.

Choose the Perfect Icon

When AIM released the icon option, we all eagerly pored through the catalogs with Talmudic levels of focus and analysis. Was I more of a kitten or a flower? It was a tough call. Deliberation over whether I made the right choice haunts me to this day.

Select the Most Emo Available Pre-Emo Era Song Lyric for your Profile

This was before the coinage of the term "emo", but it's generally a good fit for the style of song snippet we placed meaningfully (or so we thought) in our profiles. The lyrics were supposed to have some type of personal meaning, but usually you just saw it in someone else's profile, thought it made them look wise and thoughtful, and adopted it as your own.

Extra Credit: Include a link to your angsty xanga or LiveJournal

Pick a Fun Sound to Chime when your Boyfriend/Girlfriend/Crush/Stalkee Signs Online

What's your auditory fancy? AIM had you covered. Rather than the basic open door/slam door sounds, you could choose an "Eep!" or "Ding Dong!" to alert you of the arrival of a socially significant peer. That signature noise was enough to make any of our pre-adolescent hearts skip a beat or two.

Know the Lingo and Punctuation Norms

The moment I realized that when I think to myself "I don't know" the letters IDK appear instantaneously in my mind's eye, I knew my love affair with IM had probably gone too far. Most of the old standards are still in circulation today ("OMG", "WTF", and the like), but we did have a few incredibly complicated ones to deflect our parent's curious eyes.

Speaking of i's, no one dared capitalize theirs in casual online conversation. The aforementioned alternation of capital and lowercase letters was, however, acceptable. Also, the proper way to end every sentence was with an ellipsis, even if it gradually trailed off an incomplete thought...

Choose Your Emoticons Wisely

Writing online comes with the added trouble of people misinterpreting what you wrote. The upside to this, however, was that you could always, always claim you were "jk" if what you said went over like a ton of bricks. Accidentally tell your friend they looked fat in their swimsuit at Susie's pool party? Simply add a :p or a ;) and you were totally off the hook.

Extra credit for more technically difficult but wholly unnecessary shapes such as:
A rose: @>---,---
Elvis @;^[)
Fish <')))))- <

Group Your Buddies by Lists with Ridiculous Names that Contain Words like "Peepz" and "Homies"

It's important to categorize all of your friends into groups, so be sure to come up with some catchy and vaguely descriptive names. Any sort of trite, overused slang to describe your friends was always a good move, especially if it was something your parents didn't understand and thus re-cemented their position as ignorant no-nothings. There are only so many times that you can explain to them that the categorization "Tight People" was not a sexually loaded term.

Find the Font and Color that Represents Your Personality

This was especially important, as it stood for how people would perceive your online identity. Were you more of a powder blue Comic Sans or a neon green italicized Helvetica? You better pick something and stick with it, because nothing was more irritating than those AIMers who would change font style and color every time they signed on. That's like them speaking in a falsetto or false baritone every time you had a conversation. It wasn't tasteful, and it just wasn't done.

Play Semi-Cruel Mind Games Through Use of AIM Functions

Not all AIM actions were well-intended. In fact, some were rather diabolical. When you were fighting with a friend, it was critical to use your AIM functions to your advantage. For example, you may select the "do not show as idle" function that forces people to worry erroneously that you're there, but you're ignoring them. Very tricky, yes, but very effective.

Blocking certain users was another popular ploy, as was clicking "Warn" to up their warning level. Bonus points for using your away message to write cryptic, esoteric things like, "You know what you did." Come to think of it, plenty of us employ these very same methods on Facebook today. You can take the 90s kid off the AIM, but you can't take the AIM out of the 90s kid.

It just goes to show you that no matter how mature we may think we've become, we can still read through these and think, "Oh, that's a good idea!" So, farewell for now, everyone, or TTFN for those of you who are so AIMily inclined. Check back the rest of this week for some wonderful 90s Thanksgiving TV episodes to tide you over for the long holiday weekend. Until then, *~*~*~hAvE a GrEaT tHaNkSgIvInG eVeRyOnE~*~*~*

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Will Smith's Big Willie Style

Fear not, loyal readers. I have not forsaken you and skipped over the Fresh Prince. I know how important it is to you, and how much you'd like to watch a video of the Carlton dance on repeat. I promise it will be in a separate post, as Will Smith was sort of a 90s renaissance man. Well, a renaissance man with neon sideways hats who was partial to using words like "jiggy". Nonetheless.

Will Smith is a jack of all trades, starting his career as the Fresh Prince with DJ Jazzy Jeff in producing upbeat, clean, radio-friendly raps that included such classic titles as "Parents Just Don't Understand." This was mainstream rap at its finest, appealing to young people across the board. In the mid-90s, following his eponymous role as The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Smith released the album Big Willie Style. This was mid-to-late-90s pop rap at its finest, featuring up-tempo beats and squeaky-clean lyrics. This kind of thing would never have taken off today. I'm pretty sure today's rappers have some sort of bitch-and-hoe per verse quota.

Allow me to take you on a gloriously 90s trip back in rap time, back to an age of semi-innocence, where rapping about fighting aliens or hanging out with your kid was good enough to take the airways by storm. Yes, really. I know, I know, it sounds made up, but this was the real deal back in the day. You know. Big Willie style's all in it. Or so he claimed.

Men in Black

I will openly admit that this was the first movie (okay, fine, Gremlins too) that gave me a barrage of nightmares about frightening little burrowing creatures. Did I mention these films were comedies? I must have led a sheltered cinematic life. Men in Black featured a song by the same name performed by none other than its slick co-star Will Smith. Smith and Tommy Lee Jones were ultra-cool non-governmental agents charged with covering up and/or policing from earthbound alien action. You may think it's tough to bust out some bad-ass rhymes based on a movie based on a comic book, and you may be right. The song was definitely catchy, though, featuring incredibly literal lyrical descriptions like these:

The good guys dress in black remember that
Just in case we ever face to face and make contact
The title held by me MIB
Means what you think you saw you did not see
So don't blink be what was there is now gone
The black suits with the black ray bans on

Walk in shadow move in silence
Guard against extra terrestrial violence
But yo we ain't on no government list
We straight don't exist no names and no fingerprints
Saw somethin' strange watch your back
Cause you never quite now where the MIBs is at

Yes, that is pretty much the whole plot of the movie. Sweet synopsis, Will. For the full effect, here's the music video. You can't say you don't find those aliens a tiny bit frightening. Really? Not at all? Just me? Okay then.

Gettin' Jiggy Wit' It

Don't be fooled by all of those well-placed prematurely word-ending apostrophes--they are a well-calculated ploy to seem cool and hip while maintaining a spotlessly innocent rapping character. Well, depending on your definition of "jiggy", that is. Luckily there was no officially agreed-upon meaning to this mysterious slang term, meaning we could not ascertain the exact connotations of Smith's songs. According to*, there are a few definitions of "jiggy" out there:

Here's the original:
jig⋅gy–adjective, ‑gi⋅er, ‑gi⋅est. Slang.
1. nervous; active; excitedly energetic.
2. wonderful and exciting, esp. because stylish.

And here are what I can only assume to be the ensuing speculations:

Main Entry:
Part of Speech:
Definition: excited or involved; also, to get involved with sexuall
Example: Jennifer Lopez has gotten jiggy with a few men

Main Entry: jiggy
Part of Speech:
Definition: cool, totally cool

Example: I am jiggy with that idea

Please also direct your attention to Daria's episode "The Lost Girls", which features more than a fair smattering of use of this elusive term.

Featuring lyrics like this, I'm inclined to guess the connotations aren't so much sexual as jig-dancing. Main clues: his admission to not actually smoking cigars and the gratuitous use of pig-latin.

Everybody lookin at me
Glancin the kid

Wishin they was dancin a jig
Here with this handsome kid
Ciga-cigar right from cuba-cuba
I just bite it
Its for the look I dont light it
Illway the an-may on the ance-day oor-flay
Givin up jiggy make it feel like foreplay


This song is brilliant in its simplicity, as its only real purpose to to extol the virtues of Miami in rap-form. He does make it sound pretty good, what, with all of the bouncing in the club where the heat is on and those Dominican women with cinnamon tan. Clever rhyme, right? I thought so.

One thing I'll say for Smith: he does not disrespect women in his song. While other rappers make the women in their lyrics say all sorts of demeaning things, in "Miami" their lines are pretty straightforward, if a bit Will Smith ego-inflating. They're always being like, "Hi Will!" or telling him how much they loved his last hit, and occasionally if they've had a few maybe they'll moan "Aii Poppy." They're even a bit educational, teaching us some Spanish along the way. That's right. I can now say Buenvenidos a Miami. Thanks, Smith backup singers!

Just the Two of Us

You've got to hand it to Will--he really knows how to make the ladies say "awww". While the original Bill Withers version of "Just the Two of Us" was about romantic love, Smith went ahead and made it about his love for his son. Geez, what are you going for, an honorary uterus or something? That's just so...sensitive.

I mean, really, Will. These lyrics. Mushy. The mushiest. What happened to good old fashioned rap? If you had any doubt that the genre'd gone soft on you, here's your proof:

From the first time the doctor placed you in my arms
I knew Id meet death before Id let you meet harm
Although questions arose in my mind would I be man enough
Against wrong choose right and be standin up
From the hospital that first night
Took a hour just ta get the carseat in right
People drivin all fast got me kinda upset
Got you home safe placed you in your bassinet
That night I don't think one wink I slept
As I slipped out my bed to your crib I crept
Touched your head gently felt my heart melt
Cause I know I loved you more than life itself
Then to my knees and I begged the lord please
Let me be a good daddy all he needs
Love knowledge discipline too
I pledge my life to you

I guess it just goes to show: you don't need to be shocking to be successful. You just need to be devastatingly handsome, have your own sitcom, star in an endless string of box-office blockbusters, and become an international celebrity. Don't tell anyone I told you this, though. Who knows what could happen if this type of information gets into the wrong hands.

*The official dictionary of the lazy and internet-addicted. Also, those sample sentences? Wow.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Before They Were Stars: Celebrities' TV Commercial Pasts

Image via

Everyone has to get their start somewhere. Once upon a time, our current celebrities were children and teenagers still yearning to prove their worth to the entertainment industry. Lucky for them, appearing in television commercial spots is a great way to get noticed and jump-start a burgeoning career. Lucky for us, many of these clips are now available online for our perusing and light mocking pleasure.

Seeing footage of celebrities before they hit their fame stride is a sort of unnerving phenomenon. On one hand, it gives you a bit of that well-once-upon-a-time-they-were-just-normal-kids kind of feeling. On the other, you realize that they've always been attractive and special and brimming with a level of star quality you couldn't even imagine possessing.

You want to believe they're just ordinary people, but even in their youth they were spectacular. While the rest of us were getting fitted for thick-framed glasses and sleeping in orthodontic headgear, these happy-go-lucky future celebrities were carefreely frolicking on our TV sets, hawking desirable products.

Without further speculation on how little the rest of us had accomplished by the time these pretty young things already had a hefty work portfolio in hand, I present a handpicked compilation of delightful before-they-were-incredibly-huge-stars-beyond-the-reaches-of-our-wildest-fantasies. Enjoy!

Paul Rudd for SuperNintendo

Okay, okay, so Rudd definitely isn't a kid in this one, but it was certainly before the hit his career prime. A young lad in his early 20s, Rudd's cheesy overly impressed expressions are truly priceless. When you compare this zealous enthusiasm with his contemporary deadpan humor, there is quite a divide. I love that frightened, sort of paranoid look on his face. It's like he's thinking, "Ohmygod this video game is so so so fun...but wait! What is that booming voice? That ominous wind? That increasingly dark commercial set?" He just looks like he can't believe he's getting away with playing video games while wearing a blazer. Well played, Paul Rudd. Literally.

Leonardo DiCaprio for Bubble Yum

This really is a quintessentially 90s commercial. That dialogue? That flannel shirt? That boombox? Oh, that boombox. Our boy Leo is up there giving it his all, illustrating the superior unpoppability of Bubble Yum in comparison to industrial-grade sound speakers. Pure 90s brilliance.

Sarah Michelle Gellar for Burger King

Don't be fooled by SMG's adorably innocuous appearance; this commercial was perceived as highly controversial for its time. Sure, compared to today's vicious attack ads this seems pretty tame, but back in the day this was considered a pretty heavy slam. In this 1981 ad spot, Burger King (via miniature spokesperson Sarah Michelle Gellar) contended that McDonald's burgers contained 20% less meat. I know, it's awful. I'm still getting over it.

Unlike today's openly aggressive ads, retro commercials featured the niceties of passive aggressive anonymity in their bashing of rival companies. This ad may seem pretty benign by today's standards, but it was indeed among the first commercials to bash a competitor by name. That's right: they named names. Burger King would have made out awesome during the Red Scare. Gellar herself even appeared in court to bear 4 year-old witness, if that makes any sense. I smell a publicity stunt. And a delicious, delicious, 20% meatier burger.

Brad Pitt for Levis

That swoonworthy floppy 90s hair really drove the girls wild. In the ad, Pitt plays a prisoner being released back into the wild, upon which he is immediately met by a super-attractive brunette in a skintight dress and convertible. The girl throws him his Levis and the warden looks on creepily as puts them on and publicly displays affection for this mystery woman. I really love their impromptu photo shoot, too. You sort of have to wonder what he was in for that he seems so carefree and unaffected by his stay in prison. My vote is for driving while intoxicatingly attractive.

This was not the only commercial in Pitt's youth; he'd also done a TV spot a few years earlier for Pringles potato chips. The quality is sort of pixelated, but perhaps its just to cover the obscene amazingness of Brad's shirtless physique. The height of his hair in this ad nearly rivals its Burn Before Reading proportions.

Brad Pitt for Pringles

Jessica Biel for Pringles

Brad Pitt wasn't the only future star who, once popped, could not find it within himself to stop. Jessica Biel also showed up in a Pringles ad a view years later. The clip above is a fairly recent one with Biel on the Letterman show, but be patient. I swear they show the commercial eventually and even handily smack a red arrow on the screen to identify Biel. She also describes the audition process, which seems to err slightly on the side of bizarre. They wanted to make sure she could adequately move a Pringle from one side of her mouth to another. I'm sure Biel gets that sort of thing all the time.

Lindsay Lohan for Jello

Ah, remember the days when Lindsay Lohan was but an adorable auburn-headed sprite? Say what you will about the oft-misguided starlet now, but back in the day she could certainly hold her own bopping around next to Mr. Cosby himself. Our freckly little pal was just bursting with enthusiasm, sporting a near-maniacal smile. I suppose I'd be pretty excited to if Mr. Huxtable let me hang out and chat gelatin snacks with him, too.

Steve Carell for Brown's Chicken

This 1989 ad reflects all that is good about Steve Carell--his open charm, his easygoing manner, his love for chicken. The whole thing comes off as very Michael Scott to me, though perhaps I tend to blur the line between Carell and his character during my many idling hours of Office DVD-watching.

This ad, shot low-budgetly on location at a local Chicago Brown's Chicken, is certainly evident of humble beginnings. At the time, Carell was a part of the acclaimed Second City comedy troupe. Unluckily for him, this role didn't quite let him show off his comedy chops. It did, however, enlighten us about the cholesterol-free goodness of cottonseed oil. Mmmm, cottonseed oil.

Kirstin Dunst for Baby Dolly Surprise

Just look at little Kirsten in her polygamist cult-grade floppy lace-collared dress. She's one hair pouf away from being a mini-Chloe Sevigny on Big Love. I do love her little blonde 'fro, though. Whatever happened to curly Kirsten? You sort of have to wonder if she had some perm-crazy stage parents. Luckily, the phase seemed to have passed by the time she was interviewed by a vampire. A very, very good-looking vampire.

It just goes to show that stars really aren't just like us, no matter what counter-evidence US Weekly tries to peddle. For most, it was a quick hop, skip, and a jump from adorable child to devastatingly good-looking adult. Until those long lost awkward phase bar-mitzvah photos show up, we'll just have to settle for admiring them from afar.

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