I miss the early ‘90s.
If you were born in the early ‘80s, as I was, those are your formative years. That’s when you began to discover for yourself what you liked and began to interact with pop culture.
It was a great time. Everyone was wearing fluorescent neon jams and Hypercolor shirts (or Vision Streetwear), Kid ‘n Play had the best haircuts, and Will Smith was the Fresh Prince (but not of Belaire yet.) It was the New Jack Swing Era and the R and B pop charts pretty much ruled everything, at least in my world.
One of the most influential shows (besides “In Living Color”) was “The Arsenio Hall Show”. Arsenio was ostensibly a comedian, but really his only good comedic role was in “Coming to America” and he was definitively the second fiddle in that one, so I’m not really sure how he got his own late night talk show. At that time, the fledgling Fox Network was working the African-American constituency (to great results; see the aforementioned “In Living Color”.)
However, Arsenio had some seminal moments during his time as a late night show host. He had Bill Clinton on to play the saxophone before he was President; he had the definitive interview with Magic Johnson after he announced he was HIV-positive; he got in a feud with Jay Leno; he basically got fired for conducting an hour-long interview with Louis Farrakhan; and he did have that trademark “Woot, woot, woot!” thing.
I don’t really remember the musical guest from any Arsenio Hall Show, but I have recently come across this gem that must be shared: Cameo’s “Word Up”. It doesn’t need much intro, just a breakdown.
Commence The Greatest Video You’ve Ever Seen (Woot, woot, woot, woot!)
0:07 – I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t pick this video because of this guy’s amazing hat. I will only say that it wasn’t the only contributing factor. His green sleeve, skintight pink tank top, and bulbous pink codpiece were the other contributing factors.
0:45 – The only thing that I can say about these choreographed dance moves is that I can’t say enough about them.
0:51 – I always liked Cameo, but I never saw a live performance. That is to say, I never knew how weird they looked. I wonder if they dressed this way all the time or if it was only for special occasions like the Arsenio Hall Show.
1:09 – Really disappointed that they only have a regular keyboard in the band and no keytar. That was a mistake.
1:11 – I am convinced this is the only guy who is actually singing. The rest of this is straight pre-recorded, for my money.
1:33 – WTF is the guitarist wearing right now? It looks like the black Spiderman’s costume if the webs were made of gold chains and black Spiderman was a gay cop.
1:48 – I love it when a call-and-response falls flat. It’s so uncomfortable that it actually feels kind of good.
2:00 – Oh, now they got it back because everyone watching at home started singing it at the top of their lungs and the studio mics picked it up. Thank God.
2:43 – The coup-de-grace of this video? The pink-codpiece-wearing singer’s pants are missing the ass part. Shades of Prince at the MTV VMAs. Word up.
Hold up, what’s this? It’s an unprecedented 2nd breakdown in the TGVYES! I am feeling super inspired by Prince’s assless pants and I’m going deep.
Wait, that came out wrong. Oh, never mind. Let’s just get into the breakdown for this incredible 1991 performance, one I remember watching live in the basement of my grandparents’ house. Not with them, though. That would have been awkward.
0:03 – The scene is the set of the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards. In the background there are enormous Olympic torches full of fire, setting up the debaucherous Roman orgy to follow. And, yes, I know I’m mixing my Classical periods together right now. Sue me. And is that real fire in those torches? That can’t be a good idea. Anyway.
0:25 – Here comes Prince. He begins the festivities by falling to his knees, letting out a gigantic scream, and being pile-driven into the floor by a big dude, who lies on top of him. Then Prince starts writhing and moaning underneath him, gets up by going into the splits, rips out a nasty guitar lick while hopping off a ledge, and stalks to the microphone. Nice entrance.
1:23 – Is it time to discuss what Prince is wearing yet? Not just yet? OK.
2:00 – Can anyone tell me what is going on onstage right now? How many extras and dancers are there? And how many of them are actually having intercourse? This is what I imagine an Eyes Wide Shut Party at Paisley Park would be like, except there would be pancakes afterward.
2:45 – Does Prince have one person onstage designated to make that screaming sound? I sure hope so.
3:00 – OK, it’s obviously time to talk about The Outfit. It’s a bright yellow “suit”, formfitting, with pants that go up to just below the nipples. The jacket also goes to just below the nipples and the whole thing is made of this holey, doily-like, spiderwebby kind of pattern. Of course, there is no shirt on underneath the jacket. Let’s see, what else can I say about The Outfit? Oh yeah: THE PANTS HAVE NO ASS. THEY ARE ASSLESS.
And the lyrics during this time, when Prince is waving his pale little booty in front of the studio audience and millions of people at home?
“I like ‘em fat/ I like ‘em proud/ Ya gotta have a mother for me/ Now move your big ass round this way/ So I can work on that zipper, baby/ Tonight you’re a star/ And I’m the big dipper.”
I think I just climaxed. I mean think he just climaxed. I mean that was the climax of the video.
3:18 – Just in case the audience missed him waggling his ass in their face 18 seconds before, Prince gives them a better look. No shame in his game.
3:55 – Kick it! What a nice little dance routine right here!
4:08 – Now that’s the way you work a microphone stand.
4:23 – By the way, if you, like me, have ever wondered who says the “23 positions in a one night stand” line, it’s Tony M. Thank you, Internet.
4:52 – Prince: “What’s that? Rip out a ridiculous guitar solo while doing a pirouette? Sure. Don’t mind if I do.”
5:38 – Prince throws in a little yelping, just for good measure. I think the stage is going to fall apart under the weight of all this naughtiness.
5:51 – Just in case you were wondering what the preceding song was about, Prince spells it out for you: “Peace and love. Make. Love. MAKE. LOVE.” Thanks, Prince. I was confused. I thought it was about land rights for gay whales.
6:10 – The producer in Prince’s earphone: “Could you wrap it up, please? We’re really getting behind.” Thank you! I’m here all week!
6:25 – And…we’re done. He really shot the moon on that one. It has to crack the top 10 award show performances of all time, no ifs, ands, or buts.
OK, I’ll stop now.
That, my friends, was The Greatest Video You’ve Ever Seen. Now you’ll have to excuse me. I need to go Gett Off.