2Pac, Bon Jovi, Grohl Try Return From the Brink

Lorraine Ali is a frequent contributor to Calendar.

'I will survive," Gloria Gaynor proclaimed in one of the most captivating hits from the '70s disco era, and apparently a young 2Pac, Jon Bon Jovi and Dave Grohl were listening.

In this month's survey of current videos, rated on a scale of 0 to 100, we find rapper 2Pac, rockers Bon Jovi and ex-Nirvana drummer Grohl battling their way back from prison, obscurity and tragedy, respectively, trying to carve a new niche in the erratic pop world where they once prospered.

Judging from the videos, the incarcerated 2Pac is feeling antsy, Bon Jovi's feeling bitter, and all Grohl wants to do is have some fun.

Speaking of fun and surviving, Janet Jackson discovers higher planes in "Runaway," where she dives off Niagara Falls, does a back flip off an in-flight airplane and leaps off the Leaning Tower of Pisa--and still comes up looking great.

So who ultimately overcomes their past (or present) and emerges a true survivor? You can't expect any substantial answers from the video world, but some of these clips offer telling clues.


Janet Jackson, "Runaway." Jackson leaps out of her high-rise New York apartment window, but unlike every jumper before her, she catches a tail wind and glides around the world. She skips over telephone lines and factories to India, the Middle East and Africa, spreading that otherworldly Jackson vibe over mystified locals. Jackson takes rest stops on an airplane wing, where she performs a pseudo belly-dance with a troupe that she finds there. While it's total fantasy for an artist whose freedom is constricted by fame, many avid fans will no doubt digest it as some higher truth, making Jackson's reality more twisted than ever. 95


Salt-N-Pepa, "Ain't Nuthin' but a She Thing." The rap trio puts the standard idea of women's equality in a fresh new perspective by playing cops, mechanics, pampered women in chauffeured cars and even waitresses--all of whom work twice as hard in a man's world to earn respect and still look way sexy. The trio also raps to troops of women in vinyl boots who display moves amusingly similar to those of Public Enemy's old army. Salt-N-Pepa takes a basic statement and brings it to life with a sense of humor, self-respect and tons of attitude. 95


2Pac, "Temptations." Sex, sex and more sex fill 2Pac's star-studded video, which also presents a fantasy as escape. 2Pac, who was unable to attend due to a previous prison engagement, is represented by a beefy look-alike while Ice-T, Isaac Hayes, Salt-N-Pepa members and many more re-enact Sodom and Gomorrah. Rapper Coolio plays a goofy bellhop who trolls down long hotel hallways and peeps through keyholes at steamy scenes involving rap luminaries. It's a great game of who's who, but risky subject matter for a man convicted of a sexual abuse. You have to wonder if the lusty focus was specifically chosen to purge his demons in the public eye or as an attempt to move toward some normality--the normal part being that just about every other video on MTV has a sexy slant. Regardless, the video is as attention-grabbing as 2Pac himself. 85


Green Day, "Geek Stink Breath." Green Day attempts to repel fans, and of course comes up more punk-rock than ever. Rough, amateurish-looking performance shots of the San Francisco trio are interspersed with graphic scenes of a tooth extraction that are bloody, gooey and a lot more memorable than the song itself. The band tops the gross-out scale and gets points for video originality, if not for palatability. 79


Foo Fighters, "Ill Stick Around." The Foo Fighters' video continues the nightmarish dental theme by featuring a hideous little creature that looks like one of those enhanced microscopic germs from a Listerine commercial. It circles the band, flapping its many tentacles, while the Fighters valiantly play on. Maybe the repulsive glob represents the plaguing aspects of fame, but more likely it's just a weirdo idea by director Gerald V. Casale, who came up with a few weird ideas a while back as a member of Devo. 75


Bon Jovi, "Something for the Pain." "I feel like yesterday's news," sings Jon Bon Jovi. That candor initially makes this video promising, but it quickly lapses into bitterness as it shows a skate-rat kid scoffing at videos of Courtney Love, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Eddie Vedder and Dr. Dre (all impersonated by actors) and grooving to Bon Jovi. OK, let's get real here: You'd be hard pressed to find anyone under 25 right now who would chuck today's more relevant artists for the veteran rock singer. To portray the young performers as untalented and suggest that kids really do prefer him is basically driving a nail into his own coffin. 45

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