Pee Wee Herman driving a sky-blue hot rod while Karen Gillan beckons in funny costumes
I think it was about five seconds into this video, at the words, “My name is Racer Steven. This is my car, Sky Blue,” that I knew this video would be pretty cool. And by the thirty-second mark, when an intro featuring an anime race-car driver pumping his fist at the sky hit the screen, I was hooked. The video for the song “Happy Idiot” is a firmly tongue-in-cheek appeal to the nerdy 12-year-old in all of us, and a wide-eyed slice of excitement, contained in that rare, highly-sought-after thing we call “awesomeness.”
This video is about style over substance. There isn’t very much substance to speak of… just a zooming adrenaline-fueled 3-minute joyride. TV on the Radio has been a big name in music for years now, and rightly so. With its energetic sound, “Happy Idiot” is a brilliant mish-mash of influences that crystallizes into something fresh, cohesive, and exciting. There’s a bassline reminiscent of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division, frantic vocals, and a punk-fueled drum beat that tug the song along. The members of the band appear in the video performing that time-honored tradition where you “stand there and look cool.” And then there is Karen Gillan, the stunningly beautiful British actress well-known for her travels with the good Doctor in the TARDIS, dancing and beckoning from the side of the road.
But for what the video lacks in plot, it makes up for in sheer enthusiasm. The driver, played by Paul Reubens (That’s right, the same actor who played Pee Wee Herman) appears to be experiencing strange visions while driving through the desert. Every vision is one of Gillan, at one point reading a newspaper in a bed, at another dragging balloons and a SLOW sign, watering flowers, or shooting a laser pistol. TV on the Radio singer Tunde Adebimpe described the video as a “full-on geekfest in the desert”, and that’s exactly what it is, down to the anime-influence of the cartoon intro and its canned voice-over by Racer Steven.
But in the end, the quality of the song, paired with the flashy joyful energy of Karen Gillan and company in the video, outshines the silliness of it all. The music is a joy to listen to, with exactly the energy necessary to match that of the actors. And how can you argue with those psychedelic freak-out colors at the end of the video. I am convinced that every good music video should have those. No exceptions. In the end, the whole thing, song and video, was just fantastic… dare I say “awesome.”