Every now and then, a music video will get ambitious. Instead of following the simplistic formula of "musician/band performs on a beach or in a warehouse or in the desert or on a rooftop or in space, winning the affection of members of the opposite sex or the adoration of rebellious local teenagers in the process," the video will attempt to tell an actual story from beginning to end, like a short film. While this is commendable from an artistic perspective, it typically leads to less than ideal results. Feature-length films often leave crater-sized plot holes while trying to tell a story, so trying to cram it all into four minutes can be especially problematic. And when I say "especially problematic," I mean "kind of hilarious."
The music video for "Twisted" by Keith Sweat is one of these ambitious endeavors. "Twisted" was the second single off Sweat's self-titled 1996 album, and was his biggest hit, rising as high as number two on the Billboard Hot 100. (Fun Fact: The song that beat him out for the top spot was "Macarena," an unholy mess that swept the nation thanks mainly to a prepackaged dance that white people could do en masse at weddings. This is a little like having the greatest achievement of your career get eclipsed by The Chicken Dance.) The video for the song features Sweat as a smooth homicide detective whose work and love life become intertwined during a high-society murder investigation. Unfortunately -- possibly due to time constraints, budget shortfalls, lack of attention to detail, or some other factor that turns noble ideas into disasters -- this tale is chock-full of confusing and improbable twists.
In other words, it is glorious and I love it. See for yourself...
Now let's break the whole thing down, shall we?
PRELIMINARY NOTE: The video is split into two parts. Interspersed throughout the detective story are clips of Keith Sweat and the girl group Kut Klose (who Sweat discovered and produced) performing the song while wearing all white and sitting on a luxurious couch in a white room. It's a pretty standard, unremarkable R&B video setup, and it wouldn't be all that notable except for one thing, which makes it EXTREMELY notable: Keith Sweat never moves his feet. All of his dance moves -- including his favorite, which I have chosen to refer to as The Rhythmically-Blessed NFL Referee Calling a False Start Penalty -- are completed with his feet planted firmly on the ground, or up on the couch. I have watched this video dozens of times, and it gets a little more ridiculous each time I watch it.
Let's start off by setting the scene. Here is our protagonist, who, as the caption helpfully informs us, is currently attending the Commissioner's Ball. He is clearly a suave and sophisticated man-about-town. We can tell by the fact that he has opted for the buttoned-all-the-way-up dress shirt with the fancy-button-up-top look at this black tie event. Bow ties are for chumps. Disagree? You are probably a chump.
For simplicity’s sake, I will refer to this character as Keith Sweat throughout our discussion, but please know that in my mind I plan on assigning him a much more debonair sounding name like Detective Mahogany Steel or Special Agent Alonzo Glacier. Something like that. Feel free to do the same.
Here are the two other main characters:
- At left, an older Asian gentleman who is very important. It’s not clear exactly who he is, but as a general rule, if you are walking down a fancy staircase giving the peace sign while a bunch of people are taking your picture, you have achieved some sort of elevated social status. He seems like a nice guy, but (SPOILER ALERT*) I wouldn’t get too attached if I were you.
- At right, a mysterious woman who is very mysterious. IS SHE UP TO NO GOOD? READ ON TO FIND OUT.
*I am not exactly sure what the spoiler rules are for detective stories contained within 15-year-old R&B music videos, so I have decided to err on the side of caution.
The important Asian gentleman enters the bathroom. He is immediately followed by an individual dressed in all black with a mask covering covering his or her face, who enters the stall after him. A struggle ensues. Jewels hit the floor. A foot turns sideways. A man has died. R.I.P. Important Asian Gentleman.
Just as an aside, when I did a breakdown like this for FilmDrunk about the opening scene of the Sylvester Stallone classic Cobra, I said that, if at all possible, I did not want to die by getting shot in the back by a madman who was terrorizing a supermarket. Please add "getting murdered on the toilet during the Commissioner's Ball" to this list. Thank you.
After murdering the important Asian gentleman in the bathroom, the masked assailant scurries through the ballroom to make his or her daring escape, darting between tables, passing dozens of people. At this point, I would like to pause to make one small point: this is the Commissioner’s Ball. The Commissioner of Police. Ergo, this is a ballroom that is ostensibly FULL OF COPS.
While I am tempted to point out that this might be the single worst place imaginable to murder someone, especially a high-profile important Asian gentleman who has been followed by photographers for most of the night, the fact of the matter is that it worked. This person dressed up like a murderer, walked right into the bathroom, killed someone in a stall in front of a bathroom attendant, then waltzed right out the front door.
All of that brings me to this: The police in this town are incompetent. This will be a recurring theme.
Oh, also, while a person dressed in black from head-to-toe flees through the ballroom, Keith Sweat barely puts down his glass of wine. He apparently cannot be bothered with trivial issues like murder while he is eating dinner.
The murderer jumps in the getaway car -– with the police still very much NOT in hot pursuit, for the record –- and immediately removes his or her mask as though revealing your face directly outside the building inside which you just took someone's life in a public bathroom is Standard Murder Procedure. This plan, from top to bottom, is unsound to say the least.
Anyway, what’s important here is that the mysterious lady is the murderer. I’m sure you’re all shocked.
Oh hey, look, somebody finally got around to investigating the murder that happened right in front of him. A+ work out there, boys.
Despite their lackadaisical approach to police work to this point, things apparently come together pretty quickly, because after about 30 seconds of glancing at the crime scene...
... the mysterious woman is placed under arrest. SEXY ARREST. This leads me to believe either (a) the police are so startlingly good at their jobs that they were able to solve the case lickity split, or (b) this woman left incriminating evidence strewn about the bathroom floor all willy-nilly that led the police straight to her. Given what we already know about her half-cocked plan and the police's inability to nip it in the bud immediately, I'm going to go with (b). I imagine she just left her Social Security card taped to the wall with a big red arrow pointing towards it.
After loading her in the back of his car and driving off, presumably to take her to jail, Keith Sweat stops the car to help out an old woman who has dropped her groceries, like any Good Samaritan would. I mean, the only way this could possibly be a bad thing is if he, like, leaves the back door unlocked, completely stops paying attention to the murderer back there, and allows her to slip off into the night. But no cop would be that incompetent.
DAMMIT, KEITH SWEAT. "DON'T LET THE MURDERER SNEAK OUT OF YOUR CAR WHILE HELPING OLD LADIES" IS DAY 1 POLICE STUFF. I'M SO DISAPPOINTED IN YOU. WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY FOR YOURSELF?!
Keith Sweat returns home, where he finds his door ajar and the killer waiting for him. She has changed clothes and extricated herself from his handcuffs, which she has brought with her to return to him. This is a thoughtful gesture, especially for a cold-blooded killer. She pushes him up against the wall, and things proceed to get sexy.
There are other things we could talk about at this point, but, to be honest, my thought process has been derailed by that violin on the wall. I have so many questions. Does Keith Sweat's character in this story play the violin? If so, why does he hang it so high up on the wall above a lamp? Seems impractical. It is just there for decoration? Is it a very expensive violin? If so, how did he afford it on a police officer's salary? Is he independently wealthy like Mike Lowery in Bad Boys? Maybe he's on the take. At the very least it should raise some eyebrows in Internal Affairs. That's all I'm saying.
Cut to later in the evening. Their night of passion has come to an end, the killer has left, and Keith Sweat is alone in his apartment. The phone rings. It is someone from the force. They have the killer cornered.
But wait. For those of you keeping score, this marks the third time Keith Sweat has allowed a murderer to get away. THE THIRD TIME. First, he let her scoot past him in the ballroom. Then he let her sneak out the back of an unlocked car. Now, after hooking up with her, he let her walk right out the damn front door. Keith Sweat is a terrible police officer. Any Chief of Police worth his suspenders would have busted his ass down to traffic duty a long time ago.
Two things are happening here:
1) The police have cornered the killer in an alley, halfway up a fire escape, wearing a jacket, lingerie, and heels. (Free tip for fugitive murderesses: wear comfortable shoes.) Their guns are drawn, and a standoff is taking place.
2) Keith Sweat is rushing to the scene in his car, siren blaring.
Just as he gets there, four shots ring out. He turns around.
Holy crap. OK. One thing at a time.
- If any of you are crime scene investigators or biologists or physicists or whatever, and you can explain to me how someone can get shot four times and maintain this position after death, I am all ears. It makes no sense to me. All it should have taken was one person with a stray, fleeting rational thought to say "I think she would fall. Let's take literally five minutes and film a quick shot of her on the ground." But nope. LADDER DEATH GRIP.
- In addition to "getting shot in the back by a madman who is terrorizing a grocery store" and "getting murdered on the toilet at the Commissioner's Ball," let's go ahead and add "getting shot by police while climbing a ladder in your underpants" to the list of ways horrible sounding ways to die.
- Wait, they shot her? She was unarmed and, as I just mentioned, climbing a ladder in her underpants. I don't think that calls for deadly force, fellas. Something is fishy here. Maybe she knows too much. Maybe it's not just Keith Sweat who's on the take, blowing fistfuls of dirty cash on big-ticket items like designer leather jackets and antique musical instruments. Maybe this goes all the way to the top -- TO CITY HALL -- and the police took her out as part of a cover-up. Either that, or in addition to being totally incompetent, these cops are also trigger-happy and jumpy in high-risk situations. For whatever reason, the moral of the video for "Twisted" by Keith Sweat is this: The police in this town will either let you get murdered or shoot you themselves. No one is safe. Everyone run for the hills.