5 Videos That Will Brighten Your Day
There's a lot of negativity in the world, some of it even coming from me. I've made my living over the last few years writing and editing articles and videos that either tell you why something you like is secretly terrifying or tell you why the things you like talking about are stupid.
There's nothing fun about negativity, so I'm taking a break, because life is hard enough (and it's almost Christmas!). So here are a bunch of videos that have no unifying theme beyond the fact that they all make me really, really happy. These are the videos that brighten my day, no matter how bad it is. Hopefully they can cheer some of you up, too.
Accidental Flash Mob Star
For those unfamiliar, a flash mob is "a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then quickly disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire and artistic expression." Usually, flash mobs will show up at malls, train stations, stores or any other public place that sees a lot of pedestrian traffic and perform some elaborate choreographed song and dance routine. One person starts singing and dancing, and you think "Oh, look, a crazy person," and then slowly a few more people join in, then a few more, and suddenly all of these people that you thought were random pedestrians are part of a big exciting musical number, right here in real life! When the song is finished, everyone abruptly leaves and goes about the day as if nothing weird has happened. They're almost always very fun to watch, because they trick people, even for a second, into believing that the world is sometimes magical.
I'm a sucker for these things, and I will watch almost any flash mob video that comes across my radar. But this one is my absolute favorite:
If you're somewhere where you can't watch videos, I'll explain. It begins as your typical flash mob: A song comes on a speaker and a few people start dancing suddenly ...
... then a few more people start dancing along, because they were part of this the whole time! Pretty sneaky. And then something amazing happens. That something is this man:
That man is not part of this flash mob. That unnamed 40-something sees the sudden dance party, and even though he doesn't know the choreography and clearly doesn't know what a flash mob is, he tries to join in.
And he never stops.
He's not there to ruin it, or make fun of anyone. He doesn't even seem to realize that this was choreographed at all. He was so caught up in the magic of a dance fever that spread from person to person that he thought he could catch it, too. He's so excited to be part of what he thinks is a legitimately spontaneous moment. There's a little bit of terror in his eyes, because he doesn't understand why everyone is so much quicker at picking up the new moves, but that doesn't stop him from spending the entire video trying to catch up. He doesn't even stop when it becomes clear that he's the only one in the dance who isn't a young college student:
This is a man who saw everyone burst into spontaneous dance, and he didn't think "Oh, a flash mob, or a pep rally, or a stunt"; he thought "Oh, life is a musical now? OK, I'd better adapt!"
The live audience probably thought "Who's this guy?" The other performers probably thought "Ugh, that guy is in my spot he's RUINING THE FORMATION!" But that guy? he thought "Something amazing is happening and I'm part of it!"
At its worst, a flash mob is an entertaining distraction. At its best, it can convince someone that magic is real.
Hot Chick Fights Piano
Adam Conover, formerly of Olde English and currently of CollegeHumor fame, used to work as a freelance video editor, which meant that he had to, occasionally, "edit behind-the-scenes videos of fashion photo shoots." I'm sure you've seen fancy, sexy fashion shoots before; they feature black-and-white photos of women in their underwear, or maybe in just a man's button-up shirt, parading around a living room, usually interacting with some prop or costume or other model. If you look at a picture of an attractive woman being sultry while banging on a piano, you might think "Mmm, yes, very sexy indeed!"
Sure. What is that, an ad for perfume? I'd buy that perfume for all of the lady piano players I know.
What you don't know is that, to make that picture happen, a woman had to spend an entire afternoon in her underwear absofuckinglutely flipping out on a keyboard. And that someone filmed that whole ordeal. I'm trying to tell you that I have access to a video of a woman in her underwear fighting a keyboard, and the video is silent apart from the smashing of the keys and the occasional grunt. Here's the link, because I can't embed it.
That's it. Just 14 seconds of a lingerie model fighting a keyboard. I like to imagine that, right before this video, some fashion director said "OK, in this next bit, I want you to play the keyboard, but you're mad at it, and it's sexy, like you're sexy mad at the piano. Like play the piano in a way that makes men say 'She's so mad I want to have sex with her and buy this magazine' or whatever we're selling. Does that make sense?" And she said yes. She said yes.
It's one of the greatest things the Internet has ever produced.
A Lovely Song I Never Want to Understand
There are plenty of videos of people playing and singing songs on the Internet, and plenty of them are adorable for one reason or another; maybe a cat is involved, or a little kid, or one of the many cute ukulele chicks that haunt me.
Then there's this video, which I first came across on Reddit the other day.
It's called "Happy Things," which, incidentally, are also the only English words that appear in the song. There's a girl playing piano and another girl singing, and sometimes they laugh or dance. The one who sings is clearly trying to tell me something:
There's a scary bear. Or a monster. Am I close?
Down. Underground. You've buried something?
What the hell is THAT now?
But I have no idea what it could be. The rest of the song could be a list of happy things or a graphic retelling of events surrounding the Holocaust. I don't care. I never want to know. And I swear, I'm not just laughing at them because "Hey, their language is different from mine. Wacky!" I love this video because they're clearly have such a great goofy, silly old time, and their joy is completely infectious. You won't find two people having more fun on the Internet. It's simply one of the most adorable music videos I've ever seen. I hope those two girls have a long and fruitful career singing about trains or apartheid or candy or Phil Spector. Whatever. They have my support.
Jimmy Fallon and the Roots and Children and CHRISTMAS!
Anyone who knows me knows that as soon as Thanksgiving hits, I listen to Christmas music. I don't just mean that I'll occasionally throw some on to cheer myself up, I mean that I listen exclusively to Christmas music. Nothing else even gets a consideration. All Christmas, all day, everywhere. There's a radio station in LA that plays nonstop Christmas music, and when I'm out of my car, I put on Pandora's Vince Guaraldi Trio station. By the time Christmas rolls around, I will have listened to every Christmas song ever recorded about a dozen times each.
And I will love every fucking second of it.
I've done this for years. I'm not doing it ironically, or to annoy anyone who happens to pass by my desk. I do it because I love Christmas, because I am a child. And no one captures my childlike love of Christmas music better than Jimmy Fallon featuring the Roots, Mariah Carey and some children:
They perform a cover of Carey's "All I Want for Christmas" (it's in my top ten), except everyone plays classroom instruments (kazoos, tiny xylophones and so on). I can't watch this video without smiling. LOOK AT HOW MUCH FUN ?UESTLOVE IS HAVING!
If that wasn't magical enough, occasionally children will pop up out of nowhere to join in, before disappearing off camera again.
Do those kids need to know that their backing band is the Roots, whose track list includes songs like "Pussy Galore" and whose music videos feature Black Thought dousing a tied-up man in gasoline? No. Those kids never need to know that, and they never will, because you and I are never going to tell them. As far as those kids are concerned, Black Thought is playing tambourine in the Jimmy Fallon Fun House Family Band, and that's it.
Billy Joel, Hahaha, Oh Man, You Guys, Watch This Video
The music video for Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" is, without question, my favorite thing in the world.
Here is the thing about Billy Joel: He is a terrific singer/songwriter who should just sing his songs about blue-collar working-class types from behind the safety of his piano. He's a storyteller, painting word pictures, and so on.
Here's the other thing about Billy Joel: It took him a very long time to figure that out.
That's how this video happened. That's why Billy Joel, a man who should just be able to let his music speak for itself, made a bunch of weird decisions for a while. Billy Joel music videos should just be Joel, on a stage, with his band, singing their songs. Instead, they made concept videos, and Joel had to put on a costume and learn a bunch of stupid fucking choreography, even though he absolutely cannot dance, and turn "Uptown Girl" into a mini musical, complete with backup dancers and some kind of implied storyline about car mechanics who like giant, Amazon women.
Billy Joel dancing is one of the most adorably embarrassing things on the Internet. You can tell that he's struggling, and you can practically see that he's counting his steps while he moves, desperately trying to remember the choreography.
Why are you so angry?
The guys in the background, all fit, tall, professional dancers, dance circles around Joel and only emphasize how out of his league he is.
Someone in the background is juggling and Joel is clearly reading the choreography somewhere off screen.
The director must have decided to go with a bunch of wide shots because close-ups of Billy Joel made everyone too uncomfortable.
"One and two and 'UPTOWN GIRL' and one and two and ..."
This video is important as a musical time capsule. It tells us that, at some point, the marketing team behind Billy Joel's label tried to sell Joel as a leading-man, sex-symbol type. "Hey, that Mick Jagger sure seems to sell a lot of records with his sexiness and theatricality; that's the ticket! Joel, you're no longer the emotional singer/songwriter; from now on, you're the sex frontman!"
"Make sure you get Billy's crotch and the word 'GAS' in the shot. Perfect."
Pictures don't do this video justice. You really need to watch it to get exactly how awkward it is. But let's look at some pictures anyway.
Those two black break dancing youths showed up two and a half minutes into the video and their presence is never explained.
The video ends with Joel and his uptown girl leaving on a motorcycle ...
... which is fine for a happy ending, but as far as narrative structure goes, it's sort of idiotic. I mean, that woman came to this auto repair shop because she was having car trouble. That's still true, and the fact that the repair shop's lead mechanic leaves town isn't going to help matters. Clearly his leadership is needed; as soon as he leaves, his co-mechanics get into a fancy formation and just go dance crazy for a while. Someone has to fix that car, Billy.
Anyway, this is my favorite professional music video of all time.
Daniel O'Brien is Cracked.com's senior writer (ladies) and is planning an "Uptown Girl" flash mob (Billy Joel).