Apr 29, 2018
Don Johnson's "Heartbeat" (part 2 of 2)
So here, in its breathtaking totality, is the profound chorus of “Heartbeat”:
I’m lookin’ for a heartbeat
I’m lookin’ for a heartbeat
Beatin’ like mine
I’m lookin’ for a heartbeat
I’m lookin’ for a heartbeat
Beatin’ like mine
Well, I’ll just go ahead and get the standard nitpick out of the way, which is that a “heartbeat” is a sound, and thus it’s impossible to “look” for it. I think I first heard that criticism back in 1986, and frankly, there are much stupider things to make fun of here. The word “looking” is pretty much interchangeable with “searching”, so I don’t see a whole lot wrong with this particular section of the song. Minus the wretched singing, of course.
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During this, Real World Don’s still filming the STOP NUCLEAR protest, when suddenly he captures a dark-haired, anorexic woman on film. He’s so stunned to see this woman that he immediately jerks away from his eyepiece, only to see that… she’s gone! A stunned Don looks around, but no trace of her. Too many drugs, eh, Don? So, you’d probably guess that she is the heartbeat that Don’s looking for, but the video is kind of confused about that, too. Hell, I thought that kid in the skeleton costume was the heartbeat, at first.
In the Performance Space, there’s a shot of the drummer (who looks like a close relative of Robert Plant during his post Led Zep days) and oh man, he gets way, way too into it. You can clearly see the enjoyment on his face as he plays drums for Don Johnson. It’s that upper lip motion that totally gives him away. I’m not sure who this guy is, but I hope he’s sitting at home right now feeling severely ashamed of himself.
Now Don goes into the second verse, and this time he’s deemed us worthy enough to sing in our direction. “Lookin’ at me,” he declares, “It’s easy to see, you think you know just how I feel!” Okay, that makes no sense. Even my MS Word grammar check trips over that, so you know it’s incomprehensible. If I look at him, I’ll see that I think I know how he feels? Oy. I hope the songwriters are also ashamed of themselves.
Speaking of shame, remember our lime green guitar god? It turns out to be Dweezil Zappa. Yes, the son of the man who once said, “There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life,” is now part of Don Johnson’s backing band.
But it’s worse than that. Much worse. It appears that Moon Unit Zappa is one of Don’s backup singers. I’m not kidding. Over on the side of the white-tiled stage, Moon is standing next to another woman, both of them dressed in black and doing the Robot. (Hey, it was the ’80s. All backup singers did the Robot. It was a required skill.)
I was about to say Frank Zappa must have been spinning in his grave, but unfortunately, he lived to see this. I wonder if this video made him want to crawl down into a grave, just so he could spin around real fast.
And then Moon Unit and the other woman start doing the lamest choreography caught on film. Wherein, Don stands behind them, and the two backup singers take turns walking back and forth in front of him. Seriously. Moon Unit walks forward, while NotMoonUnit walks backward, and this goes back and forth, and it’s the stupidest damn thing.
As the two pace in front of him, Don damn near screams the next few lines, which are “Well, but you do me wrong! And it won’t take long! ‘Fore my restless heart will heal!” Krossfade Kraziness returns, as we simultaneously see some burning debris (probably in the South American nation of Hotspot-guay), and then a random fashion model doing a nighttime photo shoot in front of a burning car [??]. Flaming jeep, flaming car? Hey.. is this that ironic juxtaposition thing I’ve been hearing about?
A moment later, we krossfade into Don walking around in the vicinity of the photo shoot. Is he the photographer? No clue. As this is going on, Performance Don sings, “I’m looking for a love, love like mine,” and… what? He’s looking for a love like… his love? I’m sorry, Don, but you’ll never find a heartbeat if you keeping babbling like that. He sings that a mysterious “they” tells him that “it’s so hard to find!” Has he tried eHarmony?
Don’s now jamming with his bass player, who’s also dressed in all black (I sense a theme!). The bassist is playing a very thin bass, without a head. You know, one of those guitars that just ends with the last fret on the neck? God, I hate that kind of guitar. For me, it’s only slightly less annoying than a key-tar.
And the bass player is ever so slightly mouthing the words to the song as Don lip-syncs beside him. It’s very subtle, but completely pathetic nonetheless. “Well, I’m feelin’ in the rhythms,” is the next incoherent line from Don, which he quite emphatically sings to his clenched fist. He’s looking down for a long time on this line, like somebody with a major case of stage fright.
He follows this up with, “The heartbeat in the… street”, and I swear to shit, he actually looks down and points down at the floor when he sings the word “street”. Thanks, Don! I wouldn’t have known what you were talking about otherwise. And his movements are so god-awful and awkward, with his hand pumping up and down the whole time, and it’s just so obvious he’s a total beginner with absolutely no idea what to do while singing.
Krossfade to random shadows on a brick wall, of two people jumping on each other [?], and then to a menacing gang of youths, all riding BMX racers. Yeah, that’s intimidating. Might those also be girl bikes?
Then the director gets a creative flash, and gives us a bidirectional wipe, where the top half wipes right and the bottom half wipes left, and a cop car cruises past a short wall. Three kids (also part of the BMX gang, one assumes) peek up over the wall. Okay, I’m lost. Who are these kids? Are they the Don Johnson Newsboy Legion, or what? And what does any of this have to do with finding a heartbeat? A heartbeat in the… street?
And now it’s back to Performance Don, singing passionately into his microphone, while Dweezil eyes Don with a bored look on his face. Now, how is it that Dweezil is the only member of this stalwart ensemble that’s allowed to wear a color other than black? He must have really used the pull of his celebrity—as well as the gravitational attraction of his unibrow—to swing that.
And now, stubbly Real World Don is somewhere outside, and he looks up from the eyepiece of his camera, to gaze into the extreme close-up of that anorexic brunette we saw earlier. Her face is now covered in a little bit of dirt, which I guess means Don is seeing her out in the harsh conditions of Hotspot-guay, or Fauxraqistan, or wherever the hell this is.
Another close-up on Don shows him beginning to smile. Has he finally found his heartbeat? Cut back to the woman, and she slips a black scarf around the lower half of her face. Oh, great. He finally found his heartbeat, and she’s a jihadist. And with that, she suddenly disappears in the mist, which is accomplished through the time-honored effect of stopping the camera while she walks away. And despite lots of “artful” mist to cover it up, that’s essentially what happens.
Stubble Don is stunned. He looks around, like he’s totally weirded out because his dog just spoke to him telepathically or something.
And then we’re again hovering above Don on the white tile stage, as he implores you to “tell me what you feeeeeeeel now!” Ah, yes, it’s a key change, and Don is now singing in a higher, and—as you probably expected—much more painful range. On this line, Don even crouches down and gets a look on his face like he’s taking a massive shit right there on the stage. The lyrics aren’t much better: “What can a heaaartbeeeeat, tell me is it reeeeeal now?” Say what?
In the South American village, Don grabs a young boy. He flings him around like a rag doll, tossing the kid behind a bunker. And just moments later, another jeep explodes, for absolutely no reason that I can see. Come on, you just can’t go wrong with a flaming jeep.
Back in front of the Crossword Puzzle Wall, Don does a truly lame rock star move where he punches at the camera, then jerks his hand back. He’s doing this, it seems, because it’s time for the guitar solo. So Don takes a break from all this tiring rock star stuff and steps back, so that Dweezil Zappa can rock out.
Dweezil totally dweezilizes on the lime green guitar here, while we get footage of Giancarlo Esposito and his gang. Between Dweezil’s Van Halen-esque riffs, and all the street gang footage, you don’t think they’re trying to copy “Beat It”, do you?
You know, if that’s Dweezil really playing guitar, then I’m sorry to say that he kicks ass. Yes, I’m admitting of my own free will that there is at least one part of this song that kicks ass. Revoke my recapper credentials now, if you must.
Giancarlo and the Espositos maraud down the street, right past an overturned, flaming car, which looks like the same flaming car from the photo shoot earlier. So, what happened there? Did Don just happen upon a flaming car in the street and decide to stage a photo shoot around it? That makes about as much sense as anything else in this video.
During the guitar solo, there’s a glimpse of a random Latina walking down the street, in a dress with poofy white shoulders. Wait, is she the heartbeat? This shot of her takes up approximately 0.33 seconds of Dweezilmania, and then we never see her again. Anyone care to speculate on the point of that?
But then it’s back to Don. The band takes a break, and it’s just the drummer pounding away as Don emphatically says he’s still lookin’ for his “hahhhhhtbeat”. Then we get a shot of Real World Don again, this time examining a strip of film. This shot has superimposed images of Brunette Anorexic Chick, just to make it clear that it is her, in fact, that he’s looking for.
Now, call me crazy, but wouldn’t it be easier to run the film through a projector, or maybe an editing console, to find your Heartbeat Girl? I imagine examining the actual film, frame by frame, would be a tad more labor intensive.
Then it’s all kinds of confusing overlaid footage: Don watches his monitor and sees the Anorexic Brunette at the protest; Krossfade to Don looking stunned, like he’s just been Punk’d; Krossfade to helicopters zooming over Sandanistaville and random stuff exploding; Krossfade to me wondering if I put in Full Metal Jacket by mistake; And then Don is examining what I think is a really old projector, and he’s got a friend with him, and…
Aw, for fuck’s sake. It’s Paul Shaffer. Paul fucking Shaffer is in this video. I mean, come on. Just come on, now. You can’t possibly expect me to continue on after that.
Thankfully, there’s not much left, so I’m just gonna wrap this up, regardless. Next up is a random nighttime shot of Don looking around. All around him, behind, in front, to the side. He’s looking everywhere for his heartbeat!
He walks away, and then the camera suddenly focuses on a LED sign behind him that says “Heart Beat”, with a stereotypical heart monitor wave passing through the letters. This is the same logo that appears on the cover of the video, in case you were wondering. So, I guess it must have been a pretty proud day when Don got his logo up on some stock ticker somewhere.
Don is back in the Performance Space. He just knows he’ll find his heartbeat, “no matter where you’re hiding, girl!” Then we cut to Cameraman Don examining film stock with a look on his face like he just discovered cold fusion.
Then Cameraman Don sits down in front of his editing console, and there’s a Krossfaded overlay of Performing Don moaning incoherent things about finding a girl. And then we get yet another overlay of something exploding. And all of this makes it look like Don’s editing console spontaneously exploded. We should only be so lucky.
Then there’s one final Krossfade to the Anorexic Brunette, and her image is superimposed over thick smoke and flaming embers raining down. And on that image, we fade right to black.
I have no clue what the fuck just happened. All I know is it took longer to talk about four minutes of a music video than all two hours of The Island. That’s just insane.
Don Johnson released one more album after this, but by then Miami Vice was over, and nobody cared.
However, as a consequence of that new law that states every television show ever made must get a big screen remake, the Miami Vice movie hits theaters this summer. Michael Mann, who executive produced the TV show, and then went on to direct Oscar-nominated films, is directing the update, which stars Colin Farrell as Crockett and Jamie Foxx (another actor-turned-singer) as Tubbs.
Perhaps I’ll mark the occasion of the Miami Vice movie with a full recap of the entire Don Johnson hour-long Heartbeat special. Until then, here’s hoping the Vice experience motivates Colin Farrell to launch a musical career of his own for us to laugh at.