There is a trend currently going around the World Wide Web where people post a picture of themselves from 2006 alongside a picture of themselves in 2016. I don't presume to know how old you are, reader, but if your feed is anything like mine then questionable highlights, unfinished denim skirts and excessive bracelets abound – because 2006 was the year everyone stopped cobbling together outfits from vintage eBay accounts and got everything from Topshop instead. It was the year emo exhaled its last dying breath, Pussycat Dolls happened and the best selling album was the High School Musical soundtrack, followed by Justin Timberlake's Futuresex/Lovesounds and Loose by Nelly Furtado.
It was a strange transitional period for pop culture at large: Miley Cyrus made her debut as Hannah Montana, Facebook launched open registration and, one harrowing day in November, Nickelodeon decided to broadcast 24 straight hours of Spongebob Squarepants (which became the network's highest-rated day ever). All of which is to say: as far as years go 2006 was one of the most nondescript in cultural memory. It was a characterless blob, a lump of dough yet to become bread. It was beautiful. Nothing particularly dramatic happened but certain shifts took place that would go on to form the world of #personalbrands and luxe sportswear we live in today.
To that end, 2006 was also responsible for producing one of the greatest R&B songs of the twenty-first century: "Ice Box" by Omarion.
"Ice Box" is the supreme ruler of minimal, mid-tempo lovesick songs by sad boys – of which, at the time, there were many, including Ne-Yo's "So Sick" and Justin Timberlake's "What Goes Around Comes Around". Ruminating on a relationship gone sour, turning cold on someone because of some dumb shit you've both done, "Ice Box" is a classic tale of romantic entanglement. It's basically the narrative behind that couple in high school who scream at each other in the middle of the yard, break up, then get back together again by the end of the day, only to do it all over again every day for the next five years. Omarion famously never spoke much about the track, dropped off shortly after, and didn't resurface in a big way until 2014's "Post To Be". Then he disappeared again. Still, mysterious Myspace bulletin in song form that it is, "Ice Box" remains one of the definitive releases of 2006.
Let's take a look at the video, frame by frame, to understand why it is the most peak thing to happen within a year where a song wasn't truly a song unless it had a Timbaland feature.
An important distinction to make between "Ice Box" the single and "Ice Box" the video is that the video begins with forty full seconds of heartbeats. Omarion is sitting pensively on a conference room chair at the head of a glass table in front of a GIANT CLOCK. There is a fire roaring away in the corner of the room, which makes it difficult to say whether this is supposed to be a room in Omarion's house or a manifestation of the stony/passionate interplay of his emotional state. Also present are a True Detective-style skull ornament and one of these things that honestly has no place outside of a legal drama:
We haven't heard a peep out of Omarion yet and already things have reached Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men levels of intensity. You will notice how the lighting and mise-en-scene – just like, as we will soon discover, Omarion's heart – is extremely cold.
Medically speaking, this doesn't look good. This is the sort of image someone slaps up on an X-Ray board right after the words "I have some bad news" are solemnly spoken. It's a miracle Omarion is even alive let alone able to dance and emote his way through the next four and a half minutes. But who am I to say? I'm not a medical professional. I'm just a blogger, sitting in front of a laptop, asking why so many music videos from the mid-00s blew half their budget on one disarming moment of aggressively literal CGI.
Anyway, here is Omarion in a vest and some driving gloves.
Usually you will find that music videos from the years BC – before conceptual – either take place in one room where the loads of impressive dancing happens (here are some examples), in 15 different locations that try to summarise a relationship in under 4 minutes (like this and this), or a combination of the two. "Ice Box" falls into the latter category. As you can see, much coin was dropped on fancy ornaments and showing you what your internal organs would look like if you had sleet for blood, so when it came to sort the 'dance room' the production team were forced to repurpose the set from So Solid Crew's "21 Seconds". This possibly explains why everyone is putting so much effort into the post-boyband choreography on display here, which I would describe as 'emotional mime'.
All of this happens before Omarion has done any singing.
Right, here comes the good stuff, and also some lyrics. In this scene Omarion appears to be getting into some sort of argument with himself. "I got memories," he says, pointing at no one. "This is crazy." His words just rolling across the empty table where he sits alone. Only, he's not alone. He's not just talking to himself. This video has several (two) very mysterious layers. "You ain't nothing like the girl I used to know…"
Of course! The girl. It wouldn't be an R&B video from the mid-00s unless there was a girl whose entire purpose is to sit around looking sultry and not saying anything.
Holy shit it's Solange!!!
In addition to its already bountiful list of weird occurrences, the year 2006 was graced with the short lived 'thespian' portion of Solange's career, where she starred in such memorable films as Bring it On: All or Nothing and, well, that's it. Anyway, it turns out 2016 wasn't Solange's first seat at the table ha ha.
Then Omarion slides across the room in a manner that suggests shit's about to kick off but instead of, I don't know, talking, he just does this:
To which Solange's response is to run off into some metaphorical woods that may well have inspired the entire premise for The Upside Down in Stranger Things.
Omarion is distressed by this. He goes a bit 'Heathcliff on the moors'. He starts punching trees. He repeatedly complains that he is "cold" while performing a dance move that incorporates taking his vest off. It's ok though, because it's 2006, so there's no deep psychological subtext here – everything is about how Omarion is an ice man. He doesn't have feelings! He is suffering from a loss of temperature perception! He should maybe consider going to see someone about that after he's done chasing Solange through The Upside Down!
At some point this bit of prancing happens, which isn't at all a notable moment beyond the fact that it's my favourite. But while we're here, now is as good a time as any to mention that the video was co-choreographed by a man named Roland Tabor who was also a dancing extra in Save The Last Dance, You Got Served AND Coach Carter. How's that for some completely useless IMDb trivia? Since Chris Brown is cancelled, I propose we name Roland Tabor the new king of dance in the 00s.
Back in the woods, things are getting darker. A bunch of men in cloaks and sunglasses interrupt Omarion's search for Solange to ruthlessly BLOW WIND at him! Again, I think there must have been an obstacle with the budget here, because this seems like a prime opportunity to throw in some CGI ghouls and what they've actually done is grabbed four blokes from security and offered them $20 to channel their inner Hollywood stereotype of a hacker.
There is a very dramatic altercation.
But it's ok because, in case you didn't see this coming from the blue-filtered lighting and extremely low effected vocals running through the entire song, Timbaland is here to save the day!
But first, more emotional mime. I believe the translation of this is: 'why, why, why did I BBM that dick pic to Ashley from work.'
Long story short, Omarion pirouettes into the wind-blowers like a graceful denim-clad bowling ball or one of those Sky Dancer toys from the 90s and video cuts straight to him walking down a road. It's really not clear whether he won the fight or not. But is that not true of all battles? Are we not all Omarion running around like a madman in a diamante jacket, looking for stuff, getting into fights, genuinely not knowing whether you're succeeding at literally anything? Why must all stories have a concrete narrative when life does not? Is "Ice Box" by Omarion the thinking man's Step Up?
Judging by this next shot though I'm assuming he lost.
Then Omarion and his drop crotch jeans are rescued by Timbaland (presumably there has been a scene omitted where Timbaland says "What's up Omarion, please change into this crisp white jacket before you get in my Rolls Royce") and they drive off into the Billboard charts.
I guess the lesson is that Omarion didn't solve his relationship troubles but at least he got a hit single out of it. Or maybe it's that he and Solange couldn't repair things so now she's been banished to The Upside Down (his brain) to be tormented by the wind (long-term memory). Perhaps they'll just keep fussing and fighting forever, like that couple from high school. Who knows! Who cares. Ten years ago, most music videos weren't the politically emboldened artistic masterpieces we have almost come to expect from the pop elite these days. We were barely out of the late 90s when all that mattered was that it had a dance sequence both children and grandparents could memorise, someone was dressed like an animal and it was shot from the crotch up. "Ice Box" has loads of great dancing, sincere emotion and Timbaland – and that's all anybody really wanted from a music video in 2006.
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