Move to another country, they said. Learn another language. Immerse yourself in an alien culture. Fine. I'll do it. And I did. A year ago I brushed down my tweed jacket, sharpened my pencils, and moved from London to Copenhagen to work as a freelance opera and classical music critic.
In Denmark, I wanted to get properly fit. So I joined the gym around the corner from my apartment and resolved to turn up there every weekday morning before breakfast. For 11 months, that's exactly what I've done. The true horror of that commitment isn't the searing pain I experience as lactic acid tears into my inadequate muscles. It's the music videos I'm forced to watch for 90 minutes every morning on multiple, unavoidable flat-screen TVs.
Nothing—not even the obligatory Nazi rape scenes that are now derigueur in European opera houses—prepared me for how cock-horrid most of these celebrations of misogyny, arrogance and ego really are. There are good ones, of course—Shakira's "Empire", for example, has Wagnerian brilliance—but then there's the rest: presenting the youth of our continent with endless demonstrations of how to be an utter prick. Lovely stuff!
Would you want your receptive, wide-eyed niece or nephew growing up to watch shit like this? I mean, literally, like this?
1. David Guetta - Dangerous
What's known in military circles as a clusterfuck: the devil child of a terrible song, a colossal ego and zero acting ability. We all daydream about scoring a goal in the World Cup or becoming Prime Minister, but our internal cock-ometer stops us playing such delusions out in public. Unless, that is, we're making a pop video. In this case we get Eurotrash DJ David Guetta winning a Grand Prix as easily as and quickly as he might decide to have a wank.
Apart from some of the most cringe-worthy acting sequences filmed on any device anywhere, the video is remarkable for its attitude to women. They exist only to ornament a man's world. A small part of me suspects Guetta dreamed the whole thing up to find a way of dressing girls in spandex catsuits adorned with his own name. Keep your little fantasies to yourself, son.
2. One Direction - Perfect
The 'perfect' start in life for any millionaire teen is to be gifted a suite in a five-star hotel to trash. Don't bother acknowledging the staff, twice your age, who are paid minimum wage to pour your coffee. And if that doesn't make you feel like quite enough of a dick, you can always invade the kitchen and throw some food around. Or kick a football through a function room.
The girls will love you for it—even though you've promised you're not going to be very nice to them and can't commit. Sweet! And in case you were wondering who'd inherited the mantle of wisdom from Socrates himself, why it's Harry Styles of course—turning conceitedly away from the camera in the final frame like he's just found a cure for cancer. Silly boy.
3. Nick Jonas - Levels
A classic of the genre: men like cars and scantily clad women; women like to be scantily clad around men who like cars. Loads of girls and one guy, shorthand for the fact that even in the twenty-first century, ladies, it's men who do the choosing. But hey, Jonas is pretty irresistible – even if his dancing's pathetic and his facial expressions invariably resemble someone trying to squeeze out a particularly hard shit
As for wit and wisdom, Jonas ascending in an elevator while crooning the phrase "we can get higher" is astonishing in its symbolism and resonance. But at least it suits the song—which is a bag of crap.
4. Maroon 5 - Misery
This one runs a familiar course: two attractive individuals snogging, groping and dry-humping as if the viewing public, like doped apes, need to be reminded what sexual activity entails in microscopic detail. That Adam Levine is majorly in love with himself is manifest in the fact that he manages to attract a mate within 3 seconds of the video starting. That, and his hard-man ability to look just fine after being run over twice, drowned in a shitty bathroom sink and kicked off the third floor of a building.
But hang on a minute...since when was sprinkling your sex-time with brutal, non-complicit violence passable as light entertainment? Probably since we decided that a woman visiting such violence upon a man is just fine, because men aren't vulnerable to physical abuse at all. Not a bit. Just imagine this video with the gender roles were reversed. A bloody disgrace. I'm joking. Obviously. This is a joke.
5. Ariana Grande - Focus
Devoid of Britney's almost-clever aesthetic references, lacking Miley's probing vulnerability, in fact, without any hint of depth whatsoever: here's a video that appears to want to reinstate Barbie Doll aspirations in the minds of men and women everywhere. I'll give the director one thing—it's nicely lit. Yes. That's it. The lighting is good. Successful lighting. So that's a positive.
Other than that, it's a pile of posturing, pouting cack which I would shield from the gaze of any young male or female trying to form an opinion of the world around them. Should we not be 'focusing' on things other than trowelled-on make-up, staged selfies and a some distorted idea of physical perfection when talking of human beings and their potential to attract each other? And while we're at it, a little 'talky talk', Arianna. When you're lip-syncing, use the actual words that are on the record. It's a little more convincing.
6. Brandon Beal - Side Bitch Issues
This guy's popular in Denmark. Is it because he shines a piercingly ironic post-modern light on rampant sexism? I literally have no idea. In "Side Bitch Issues" Beal bleats on about his 'mistress' phoning him too much—after all, he "only hit her two times." Sure. We get it. You're being ironic. Of course you are. That's OK then.
But that doesn't really come across on your video, does it Mr Beal? On screen, the singer's wife is depicted as a stalking, comfort-eating bunny-boiler while he and the mistress he likes to smack up are all smart, sexy and sophisticated. A nice little arrangement, while Beal's chorus "Side, side, side, side Bitch issues" is set to a nonchalant, whistlable tune. Ironic or not, it's a fucking horror show.
7. Jason Derulo - Trumpets
It must be a real drag being Jason Derulo's girlfriend, waiting all day to enter his poky little bedroom where he lies like some drooling reptile, only for said bedroom to be invaded by a troupe of bearskin- hatted soldiers heralding the impending stiffening of Derulo's cock by blowing down phallic trumpets.
Rather more troubling is Derulo's apparent belief that their entire relationship hinges on the few minutes each day when his girlfriend undresses in front of him like one of Peter Stringfellow's finest. Has nobody told Derulo that a sexual partner might be useful for companionship, emotional support and even a smidgen of reflective conversation? Perhaps it's a good job they haven't, with lines like "is it weird that I hear trumpets when you turn me on?" Yes my friend. It is a little.
8. Brandy and Monica - The Boy is Mine
A good old fashioned bitch-fight rendered in the smoky, passive- aggressive tones of late 90s R'n'B. Here we see two women scrapping over a fellow human being like he's a second hand Nespresso machine.
For the most part, neither woman can look the other in the eye. Which, in fact, is a neat visual metaphor for the fact that their verbal communication isn't exactly of the highest order: the argument appears not to stray far beyond "he's mine" / "no, he's mine." I'm not sure what's more degrading: the fact that both women appear so desperate to stay with a man who's cheating on them, or the notion that said man is little more than an object who has no say in his own future. They deserve each other—all three of them.