It’s not my fault I watched the new Korn music video. Look, any time I get a press release with the subject line “KORN Deliver the True State of the Union with New Video,” I am going to click through to the Rolling Stone premiere of that video. And when Rolling Stone claims that in the video “the band attacks governmental data surveillance and modern information overload,” I am going to watch the shit out that, even if the mention of Korn’s name—or just a backwards R—makes me involuntarily cringe as a deluge of embarrassing middle-school memories come flooding up from deep inside me. Korn wants to tell us about the surveillance state, guys!
Frontman Jonathan Davis told Rolling Stone, “We are all so caught up in watching crazy media on the internet and TV that we are manipulated into ignoring that our privacy has all but disappeared.” Whoa, dude, preach it! Did someone smoke a doob with Tom Morello at Lollapallooza*? Imagine what that hard-hitting critique of the media-industrial complex would look like if you represented it via a combination of words, music, and visuals? Oh shit, I don’t have to imagine it—you just made it!
(*According to this guy on Twitter, Tom Morello has never smoked marijuana. Sorry everyone, I guess Jonathan Davis did not smoke a doob, or anything else, with Morello.)
Anyhoo, the song is called “Spike in My Veins,” which might refer to some kind of heroin=media analogy, but the lyrics are just a nu-metal word salad—the chorus is, “Never gonna run away/ Seeking out my path/ But the pain always gets in the way/ Slowly watch me die / I’m insane, so dangerous/ Don’t you just get in my way.” So let’s ignore the Angry Yelly Guy’s Songwriter Handbook Davis is using and just focus on the images in the video, the first of which is a TV:
Oh, OK, this is like a video-within-a-video, huh? It’s a mashup of a bunch of news reports about Edward Snowden and the NSA revelations. Then our broadcast is interrupted:
Oh, a public service announcement. Alright, I assume this is, like a hurricane warning or—
OH SHIT IT SAYS DISTRACTION WHAT THE HECK DOES THAT MEAN SHH SHH DUDE THE SONG IS STARTING. (If you are wondering what the song sounds like, it sounds a lot like Korn.)
Here’s the band contemplating a bunch of TV screens, looking a lot like the tertiary characters from the later Matrix movies. What’s on those screens, you ask?
It’s the president—but on Jimmy Fallon! Like he’s just a celebrity or something!
And… surveillance cameras? What—
Ohhhhhhhh, it’s the guy! The rapey guy, whatshisname, and #PRISM, like… That dumb song about bad girls was actually about the much-maligned NSA surveillance program? Or, is Korn saying he’s a part of PRISM? Fucking layers, people.
Rob Ford! OK, what else you got for me?
Miley Cyrus! And scenes from some demonstration! In case you can’t figure this SUBTLE SOCIAL COMMENTARY, Korn is saying that perhaps coverage of Cyrus and the other pop stars that are featured in this video (Kanye, Bieber, etc.) distract us from the more important issues, like whatever protest is happening in all the disconnected flashes of riot porn that Korn is showing us.
This is where I should say that I’m not trying to be all, “Fuh fuh fuh, Korn is fucking lame and old. Dude, I’m way too cool for that chain-wallet Hot Topic bullshit.” I honestly, earnestly think this video and the line of thought it represents are garbage. This image/caption combo never appeared on CNN or anywhere else—when that clip of the University of California, Davis, campus cop pepper-spraying some Occupy-affiliated protesters came out, every media outlet was like, “Yeah, no, this is awful.” (Less well covered was the later story about how that cop, John Pike, was paid $38,000 for the pain and suffering the publicity caused him, but I digress.)
The press may be way too eager to praise the cops, but the rise of mass media has helped countless videos of police abuse spread and gain attention. The mass media is also a way for news about celebrities to proliferate and spread, which means yes, there are a bunch of stories about Bieber, Kanye, and Miley circulating on the internet and television all the time. There are more outlets, and more screens, and more information available on those outlets and screens than ever before—and BREAKING: People like to read and watch fluffy BS stories as well as hard-hitting news stories. Just because someone clicks the link to “She Wore What?! Was Jessica Alba’s Outfit Too Sexy for the Golden Globes? (Slideshow)” doesn’t mean he's not aware of the latest NSA news.
By the way, entertainment coverage is not a conscious plot to “distract the public from the real issues” or whatever 13-year-old-reading-the-New-York-Times-for-the-first-time conspiracy theory Korn is vaguely hinting at here. Jonathan Davis thinks we’re being “manipulated into ignoring that our privacy has all but disappeared”? What a fucking ass—the NSA scandal was the single biggest story of 2013. It was reported everywhere. We really need a shitty nu-metal video to remind us of it? And while we’re talking about manipulation, isn’t it a little odd that a past-its-“prime” band is jumping on the smash-the-surveillance-state bandwagon the way it jumped on the dubstep bandwagon three years ago? Is this ham-fisted, pretentious video just a desperate cry for coverage? Alright, you win—I’m talking about you assholes.
Jonathan Davis, by the way, is 43 years old. He looks like a generic metal dude Carrie from Sex and the City would date in a forgettable arc that’s mostly about her discomfort with his back hair. This is an adult. But he still apparently thinks that protesters in Guy Fawkes masks represent some kind of threat to the established power structure that the “media” (whatever that means) is trying to suppress.
Whatever. Let’s just run through the rest of this video so we can all go back to more important things. Blah blah blah white guy dreadlocks bouncing:
Blah blah blah media representations of Barack Obama and Miley Cyrus—are they both being reduced to mere celebrities at the expense of ignoring the real-world political power of Obama? Does the ad-based, soundbite-heavy medium of television occasionally adopt a pandering, audience-friendly format that strips away important context in favor of jokes about famous people’s dogs and crassly sexual performances? How’s your media theory 101 class down at the community college going?
Blah blah he has a bunch of arms now.
And now he’s on all the TV screens—a bold, provocative image of a middle-aged rich white dude in a famous band finally gaining access to the media-industrial complex.
Is it over yet?
No, first the TV screens have to break apart and rain sparks down on the band. Because the power of the music, I guess. What a powerful image. How long before Korn is the special guest at the Super Bowl halftime show, I wonder?
The music video ends—I kid you not—with a guitar getting thrown out through the TV screen that we were inside the whole time, which is the kind of shit Tenacious D would have put in a video making fun of 80s rock excess. Remember Tenacious D? No? Goddamn, I’m getting old.
The full video is below, so watch it if you want. But please, no one tell Korn about NAFTA or Citizens United or private prisons, OK? The world can only take so much nu-metal truth-telling.