Watched on the Treadmill: 40 Minutes of Dance Videos

Watched on the Treadmill: 40 Minutes of Dance Videos

No pain, no gain.

7. Samim: “Heater”

Or you can do it the easy way and just show a bunch of people dancing. I like how the accordion is a symbol of multiculturalism at the same time it is a mockery of multiculturalism. Exclusion principle be damned!

This is as good a time as any to note that most of this music comes from outside the United States, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all unpopular or obscure. A lot of these artists have charted, particular in Britain, particularly on Dance charts. So, it’s not like BSC raided somebody’s external hard drive for freelance video projects. But with the international scope comes, well, diversity. A music video means different things to different people, and serves different purposes to different artists.

I bring this up now because our next video is one of my favorites, for a lot of reasons.

Hey, how do you know a guy isn’t betting on ever becoming successful in the United States? Because he calls himself:

8. Basshunter: “Angel in the Night”

Looks like there’s a Swedish guy who didn’t go to before picking his techno name! (and no, that website is not blocked as pornography — it’s quite harmless, unless you’re a fish,)

At first I was a bit disappointed when this came up, because it’s got by far the highest production values of any of the videos we’ve watched so far. Except for maybe the garbage dancing one and maybe Cascada if somebody took that damned light out of her face, it’s the only one that gives the impression that “the music industry and/or a professional filmmaker made this.” But it quickly won me over, not in small part because it heavily and smartly references the greatest Scandinavian music video ever made:

Similar to the A Ha video, Basshunter’s bassterpiece goes from a diner for lonely hearts to a fantasy racetrack, with lots of fun, bouncy music to carry you along the way and an earnest, warmhearted appeal for affection from a singer who almost wouldn’t dare suggest such a thing were possible, except that he is compelled by intense emotion to make the attempt. Compare it to “WhatsitgonnaB” from back when I wasn’t sweating so much. Leave it to Basshunter to show a little humility.

At this point, I’d suffered quite a bit of inhumanly arrogant posturing, even by people who should know better (Get back in your rotating box! Nobody said you could leave!), so this was really touching, and the “jam” in the middle was pretty cool — it was like Gran Turismo on Playstation with music supplied by a particularly enthusiastic Super Nintendo. Also, leave it to Basshunter to be the only person on the Dance station who knows how to Tokyo Drift.

Of course, it’s possible to see Basshunter as also dispensing horrible relationship advice, more in the Richard Marx mode of “If you just love them enough and pity yourself enough and humiliate yourself enough, the woman you have specially chosen for the task will eventually love you back,” but just as that’s not really fair to Richard Marx, since we’ve all felt that way from time to time, especially when we were young and didn’t know anything about anything, it’s probably not fair to Basshunter. Basshunter seems to be unreasonably hard on himself in this song, to the point where maybe we don’t have to entirely believe that he’s really totally obsessed with this girl he can’t have — more like he protests too much, and he’s probably goign to get this girl with this song, because it’s a sweet, fun song that showcases both whimsy and masculine vigor — as well as car racing. And he does mention she smiles at him and stuff, and he says “let me hold you now” in a way that indicates such a thing is about to happen, so she’s at least nibbling at the ‘Hunter’s bait.

He also has the guts to straight-up state that it isn’t enough for the girl to be his light in the dark, he also needs to actually be with her. This is an important insight that is to often skipped over. There are a lot of people out there who could have been saved a lot of trouble around freshman year of college (give or take, say, three years) if they’d known how that all works ahead of time.

Also note that, at the beginning of the video, the girl dumps her boyfriend via text message for cheating on her and you never see him again and she never wants him back. No word on whether it was from behind or not.

9. Rae and Christian: “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby”

This is a remix of the Dinah Washington version of the old country/jazz standard. I find it a bit tedious and the video to be way too on the nose. We all like cartoons, sure, but after this blizzard of deconstructed archetypes, hypothetical imperatives, flashing lights, pounding bass, and rotating boxes a cartoon that sort of does and sort of doesn’t (boo again, Exclusion principle!) depict the events in a 60 year old song is kind of meh.

It also was kind of crappy running music — I was up to 9 mph duing Basshunter; I had to scale it way back for this one. It was about where I started losing energy and realized the gym was going to close soon.

The trombone or tuba or whichever muddy thing is rattling along down there is awful. It’s too sloppy to be looped; they should have just played it for a while and let it feel more organic.

The straight up jazz versions of this song are just better than this remix, which takes away a fair measure of the song’s elegance and makes it too ponderous. This version in particular is a lot of fun:

The whole thing smacks heavily enough of minstrelsy for me to not like it all that much in any form. The phrase “Is you is or is you ain’t my baby” comes from Octavus Roy Cohen, a Jewish writer from South Carolina who wrote HILARIOUS dialect fiction about those HILARIOUS “Southern Negroes” for the HILARIOUS Saturday Evening Post. Quoth his Wikipedia page: “If his people seemed to possess the usual mythical Negro qualities of drollery and miscomprehensions, his tales at any rate were spirited.”

So yeah, of all the Jazz songs to pick up on and remix, this one is just kind of ugly, and it was made uglier by a slow and joyless remix. I did not like this song.

10. Tim Deluxe: “Let the Beats Roll”

This is Tim Deluxe’s answer to “Mama Said Knock You Out” and “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back),” where he informs us he has come back from somewhere. Great. Welcome back, Tim Deluxe, from wherever it is you went to wherever it is you are now and were before you left. I guess it’s the U.K. on all counts.

— By the way, it occurred to me today that, while Jay-Z claims to be the “best rapper alive,” if you want to talk about overall versatility, appeal, viability, enduring influence on hip hop and long-term success (neither of them are in even the top ten of lyrical virtuosity), LLCoolJ from the aforementioned “Mama Said Knock You Out” has at least some claim to the title — as he exercised with his dubiously named latter-day album, G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) It’s a bit of a nonsequitur, but it’s useful sometimes to remember which rappers are still alive so that when Jay-Z goes bragging you can check his facts. Dispute this? Leave a comment! Leave a comment regardless! —

The beats in this Tim Deluxe song rolled. The video was about breakdancing. Competent, polished, but it lacked the desperation and joy of the poorer contributions and the fun of the richer ones. Maybe tough-guy white-guy techno is an easier sell in the U.K. than it is in the states. Well, at any rate, my run was coming to a close, so I could ponder these things later.

Cooldown: Armand Van Helden: “U Don’t Know Me”

Minus points for the “U.” Get with the program, Armand.

This song was a #1 hit in the U.K. in 1999. Top of the charts #1 hit, not just a dance track hit. That doesn’t seem justifiable at all, because this song just seems awful. Then, I read that it knocked “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)” by the Offspring off the throne, and I guess that makes more sense. I also guess the U.K. likes disco samples.


And with that, the treadmill ground to a halt and I was informed the gym was closed and I had to leave. All in all, a solid workout, and a tour de force through the brilliant and terrible of a style music I really don’t know a great deal about it.

Pop culture is so pervasive now, and we interact with it in so many ways, that it’s worthwhile to consider experiences like treadmill television – if not alongside big tentpole motion pictures, at least with some of the same words.

And it sure does pass the time when you’re hamster-wheeling it to nowhere.

(N.B.- If you do the math, you’ll realize this isn’t quite 40 minutes. Other than the few seconds of downtime between each song, which adds up over 40 minutes, there was one song I didn’t bother writing down because it pissed me off so much, and then after the fact I couldn’t remember what it was. The song was okay, but it was a live performance by a techno band, which meant it was really poorly mixed and just didn’t make sense — lots of random shots of these guys smiling and muffled techno along with crowd cheers. Waste of time. Long track too. So yeah, that’s why it doesn’t quite add up.)

What do you listen to or watch on the treadmill? How is the artistic experience altered? Sound off in the comments!

11 Comments on “Watched on the Treadmill: 40 Minutes of Dance Videos”

  1. Rob #

    An interesting point on that Basshunter video – it’s part three of a bizarrely ambitious series of videos, hence the dumping of the boyfriend at the start. The story is summarised a ‘megamix’ that you can find on Youtube, which is 8 minutes of eurotrance but will fill you in on how we got this far and where the romance progresses. Most of the plot arcs are contrived around getting the women into bikinis and the men into swim shorts. And by the way – I know all this because the megamix once played whilst I was on a treadmill in the gym. If nothing else the storyline kept my mind off the pain of running!


  2. Chris #

    This was a thoroughly enjoyable piece, but that may be in no small part due to the fact it is eerily similar to a series of essays I was working on in which I provided a thorough analysis of songs that appear on “Worst Songs Ever” lists. Alas, that project is on hiatus due to, you know, actual work, but at least I could briefly relive it vicariously through this video enhanced essay.

    Additionally, and tangentially, it reminded me of a piece Chuck Klosterman once wrote in which he watched VH1 Classic for, I believe, 24 hours. However, if I recall his essay correctly, at the time VH1 Classic showed videos in eight hour blocks, so he ended up seeing the same videos three times. You were not as unlucky, however, plus you got a workout in, so that’s a bonus.

    I wish I had something more substantive to add to this comment, but for now that simply isn’t the case.


  3. Fig #

    To further dwell on Basshunter, the interesting thing is that two of his most popular songs in Swedish are about a chat room bot and Warcraft, respectively. I believe he (or some nebulous “they”) rewrote at least “Boten Anna” in English to be much less interesting–maybe they thought it would appeal more to an international market that way? I’m not sure about the rest of his songs, but at least “Boten Anna” and “DotA” appealed to a nerdier market.


  4. Simber #

    Cool stuff. Interestingly I know only very few of these songs, except Lasgo and Armand van Helden (even though I’m an avid follower of thrashy dance music). I’m led to believe there’s a taste difference between the European continent and the UK/US. You guys seem to appreciate dance tracks that have more song-like structures, whereas Europeans love steadily intensifying grooves.
    The video that is unavoidable on Dance-TV like channels at the moment is ‘One’ by the Swedish House Mafia and Pharrel:
    Is that played with you aswell? I like the clinical/raw contrast in the video and the fact that it refers (somewhat, though inconsistently) to how dance music is actually made, instead of having pretty girls play phantom guitars. It might be a little too slow for serious running, though.


    • fenzel #


      Just as conjecture, I’d say something like that is true. American dance crowds, in my experience, love bass and love hooks. The “steadily building groove” isn’t as popular, and is often reserved for novelty songs. The bar for what “techno” is is very low, and people are alienated very easily by songs that aren’t song-like. The European EDM artists who break through here tend to have good hooks and write things that feel like songs. A good example of the American sensibility for dance music, listen to pretty much any track by Timbaland.

      This is I think because singing along with a song is really big on dance floors. The women often dance separately from the men (who are often somewhat loathe to really dance — it’s still considered a gay or European thing to do in a lot of places, at least sober), and people either grind or sing along to their favorite songs with their friends.

      The American “rhythmic” radio format is a combination of dance, pop and hip hop — outside of certain niches, you tend not to run into electronic music in a vacuum, it is also juxtaposed with pop music and rap music, both of which are very anchored in song structure. Especially when you’re dealing with a rap song, there are verses you usually can’t understand with lots of text that resolve into hooks — and that resolution is pretty huge for how dancing works in America.

      Pharrel has been a bit of a no-show in the States lately; I haven’t heard anything from him in a while. But then again, I’m in Boston, which isn’t exactly cutting edge with dance music (because of the ethnic homogeneity across neighborhoods). I haven’t encountered this song before — maybe some of my New York friends have.

      By the way, I would be incorrect to discount the very important influence of Latin DJs in the United States — that’s a whole other world that is as American as a lot of this other stuff. But even there, I think you see a preference for song structure — perhaps the most obvious example of that being the rise of Reggaeton, which of course made its commercial crossover in the American territory of Puerto Rico.


  5. cat #

    It’s been a while since I’ve seen the film, but I would imagine the Singing in the Rain video to be a mimicry of sorts of Gene Kelly’s dance with his mirror self in that movie. Nice blend of the technology it takes to create the effect (mirror self, self-assembling components), the advanced technical ability required for the dance moves, and the simplicity of the scene (uncomplicated metaphor and dancing in the rain with oneself/uncomplicated metaphor and dancing in a subway with junk).

    Also, what kind of gym are you going to? I get mostly the current Top 40 or the Top 40 of the last few decades.

    I couldn’t actually make it through most of the videos but the Cascada one has an incredibly confusing message. It starts off simple enough, her significant other has apparently been unfaithful but she’s still in love with him. This can go one of two ways. Either it becomes an empowering song about how she’s leaving him or a song about how she decides to stay. It doesn’t exactly become either”.

    “I need miracle/I want to be your girl/Give me a chance to see/That you are made for me/I need a miracle/Please let me be your girl/One day you’ll see/It can happen to me”. Wait, what? What is this song about? Were the beginnings of two songs added together? Why does she need a miracle? Isn’t she already “his girl”? What is she asking from him? I suppose, being generous, you could read it as her asking him to prove that he can live up to her dream and act like he was “made for her”. But then why does she ask him to let him be her girl? What will he see one day? It sounds like a song about a cheating boyfriend was mashed together with a song about pining for an unrequited love. Otherwise, it’s about an emotionally abusive relationship where even though he’s cheated on her, she not only forgives him but feels like it’s up to her to prove she can be “his girl”. “Day and night/I’m always by your side/Cause I know, for sure/My love is real, my feelings pure.” Sigh…


    • fenzel #


      “Also, what kind of gym are you going to? I get mostly the current Top 40 or the Top 40 of the last few decades.”

      I go to a Boston Sports Club. Not all Boston Sports Clubs have these video channels. This one didn’t even used to have them on all the machines. But they took a survey of their members and I think people said they liked it, because after the survey they added a couple video channels and put them on all the machines.

      Although I miss the “Rock of Ages” channel. The “Classic Rock” channel isn’t nearly as good — not enough metal.

      “Otherwise, it’s about an emotionally abusive relationship where even though he’s cheated on her, she not only forgives him but feels like it’s up to her to prove she can be “his girl”.”

      Yeah, this is how I read the song. Very effed up.


  6. cat #

    Tonight Fever Inside Together My Soul Control All The Time A Sign Love Love My Mind A Sign Love Love Together My Soul Control Soul All The Time A Sign Love Love A Sign

    Above are all the words in order that appear on screen in the Lasgo “Out of My Mind” video. Tell me there isn’t something sinister there. It’s either bad news for the woman singing or the audience. Cue montage of every movie/television show using the concept of music as mind control. Maybe it’s just all the talk of controlling souls…


  7. Brimstone #

    I was watching dance videos at a pub yesterday. most of them were really sexualized, in blatant and strange ways

    dance music confuses and frightens me. it’s very popular in Aus tho


  8. Heather (An Underthinker) #

    I am super jealous that your gym offers this channel.


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