Whither The Funky Bunch?
You know what song you don't hear much anymore? "Good Vibrations" by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. You do hear it sometimes, like at the nail salon, but you don't hear it much, because it's not good. It's a little surprising that Mister Respectable Producer Man Mark Wahlberg hasn't had all copies of it destroyed, now that I think about it. I like Donnie Wahlberg pretty well as an actor, and I respect that he doesn't sell out his time in the New Kids; he went out on that tour and made the Knights their mortgage and didn't act cooler than the gig or the fan-service stuff, which is what a grown-up does. I can't prove it, but I feel like Mark isn't like that, that he'll just pretend that whole era never happened, that if you meet him at a party and you even refer to Calvin Klein in passing, all of a sudden you're eye-to-eye with the top jacket button of a 350-pound former nose tackle named Cha-Cha, and the Funky Bunch keep calling and calling and Deirdre the intern says the same thing every time, yes he got your message, no he's not avoiding you, okay…uh-huh, o– okay…okay, take care.
Yes, I wrote a sad little micro-fic about how Mark Wahlberg friend-dumped the Bunch and won't even tell the truth about it. What do you think about during a pedicure?
This isn't trying to talk shit about present-day Mark Wahlberg, either, not really. When he's cast correctly, he's a very good actor (although I acknowledge that what I call "subtle," you may call "bad"). Who would have thought 20 years ago that that's the discussion we'd have about him, though? Watching the "Good Vibrations" video is like seeing a documentary of another life; everything about it is dated and cheap-looking, from the Cellblock-D assignation he's having with some girl in which he keeps his backwards baseball cap on even lying on his back, to the shrill lady vocal performed in front of a cracked mirror, to the anti-drug raps, to the David Silver Dancers working it out under an overpass in a huge puddle (see also: the Jon Secada video from the same era that finds him singing his heartbroken ass off in a…desert carport?). You had two kinds of videos back then: this kind, shot in black-and-white to look "street" (read: to hide the budgeness); and the Anthropologie-catalog kind shot in a brownstone they'd filled with trees while the lead singer wandered around in angel wings and needed an iron pill.
It's the budge quality that struck me, visually and aurally. Marky and his relentless gym boobs are going for straight outta Compton, but landing with a thud on straight outta Casio. But the dollar-store feel isn't confined to "Good Vibrations," or to the slapped-together Faux! MTV Raps hybrid tracks we all had to endure back then (C+C Music Factory, please line up behind the Bunch). Everything seemed cheap back then. Watch a TV show from that era; find a men's suit on the screen that isn't shiny or shlumpy or ill-fitting or rayon, or a combo platter of those things. Find one women's belt whose buckle doesn't look like a child could bend it. And the prints, Jaysus.
We accepted it, too — or we saved up for Docs and wore them with our green Gap jeans and a big black sweatshirt, every day. I don't remember noticing it, how cut-rate everything felt. From a distance, a lot of '80s stuff is ugly or weird or completely of its time in some other negative way, but at least sometimes clothing and videos and whatnot looked like money had been spent, no matter how misguidedly. The early '90s just came off jenky all the time.
And if anyone can confirm or deny that the Bunch is doing okay, I'd love it.
Tags: am I precious to youuuuuuuu Beverly Hills 90210 C+C Music Factory Calvin Klein cheap cheap dated visual grammar don't wear that ever again Donnie Wahlberg Jon Secada Mark Wahlberg Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch mistakes were made music New Kids on the Block that special breed of '90s foolishness