I believe there are four ways to give an homage something. One way is to use a clever reference to something great or obscure in the past. Another way is to remake a classic with today’s attitudes or technology. Another way is to blatantly rip off what was popular then just to boost popularity of the current feature in lieu of doing actual work. And finally one can use something that is worthy of an homage but haphazardly throwing elements of the homaged material into the current work without having any idea what made the original material so homage worthy in the first place. It is like throwing random strings of spaghetti on the wall and seeing what sticks. But in Nicki Minaj and will.i.am’s “Check It Out” music video, they not only threw spaghetti on the wall, but also the sauce, the Parmesan cheese, the bread sticks, the olive oil, and the pot hoping for some homage to Japanese anime and Korean pop. As described, the result is both an odd piece of art and a mess on the wall.
Ripping off the iconic rhythm of The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” for “Check It Out” to catch on those familiar with the song and to avoid creating some original beats is nothing really new to artists these days. Probably the first noticeable thing about this anime inspired music video is that anime-or cartoons in general-are often bloody difficult to do in live action. Done well like really talented anime cosplayers and some live action anime musicals in Japan and it looks great. Done haphazardly like Dragonball Evolution, the former Apollo Smile and it looks klutzy and like noise. The graphics in Japanese or Korean that randomly pop up that either are lyrics of the song, adjectives that fit the moment of the video, or Asian word salad that looks good on the screen. The last option is often the case for people who do put random Chinese, Japaenese, of Korean characters for art’s sake. Probably the main anime nods noted are Nicki’s jumpsuit that resembles a space uniform or sentai superhero costume and will.i.am’s cel-shaded white face. The choreography vaguely reminds me of Korean pop. But as a whole, the music video reminds of late night anime marathons where I often find myself doing the laundry in the middle of the shows or checking my email and not having the faintest idea what the show was going for.
But I do admit that “Check It Out” did remind me of how great “Video Killed the Radio Star” was as a song and its commentary how music videos often distract musical art with visual noise-like “Check It Out.” How profound.