Video Hangover: “Tainted Love”

It’s a timeless philosophical debate: What makes a video crappy? What makes a video great? Even the most ill-conceived and poorly executed video can make us nostalgic for a forgotten trend, or remind us of a song we used to love for all the wrong reasons. Twice a week, we dig in the MTV/VH1 archives for videos that we find noteworthy, resonant, or just unbelievably stupid. Is it crap or not? You decide…

“Tainted Love”
Soft Cell, 1981

My friend Marc is, like, too British to function
Because it was the early eighties, and because Soft Cell was from Britain, the video for ?Tainted Love? is filled with the obligatory symbols of fallen empire. You have the tea matron, the injured cricket player, the croquet mallet, a Roman emperor, and a singing eunuch. A singing eunuch? Not the most elegant critique of Thatcherism we?ve ever seen, but Marc Almond never was one for subtlety.

Your lips are moving, but I can?t make out the words
Good — or at least passable — lip-synching is something we take for granted in modern videos, but in 1981 the format was still in its infancy. Take a look at the videos MTV played on its first day on the air, and you?ll see more than a few artists making the painful transition from live to taped performance. In this light, Almond?s struggle to keep up with the music seems almost quaint. The arm-flapping, finger-running, and generally horrific vamping, however, are timeless.

The part was written for a shark with a laser beam strapped to its head
Great moment, when Emperor Almond coaxes the girl into splashing around in the clearly fish-free tank (this just in: Marc Almond does not like girls). Good thing for her they only had enough money in the production budget for stock footage of piranhas, or she might have lost an arm.

Got a candidate for Video Hangover? E-mail tips at stereogum.com.