There is only one reason and two words that SHARK TALE and MEN IN BLACK II were such huge commercial successes and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ran for six years: Will Smith. What a script lacks in originality, artistic sensibility or success in concealing its capitalistic aims, it can, almost without fail, make up for with a few of his dreamy trademark smirks and well-timed comic profanities. Oh, and the mandatory shirtless scene; we mustn’t forget about that. As if we could. Or would want to.
Smith has proven repeatedly that though he doesn’t always, he is more than capable of shouldering weighty roles, as in ALI and THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS. His nuanced and occasionally dark performances in a wide spectrum of films have earned him attention from the Academy and regard as a serious talent.
His musical career, however, is another story.
Though his first two albums went multi-platinum, it’s unrealistic to imagine anybody taking Smith’s radio-friendly, mainstream, inconsequential rap pablum seriously, not even Big Willie himself. To do so would be something akin to being the “pretty fly” guy of Offspring fame: “He may not have a clue, and he may not have style/ but everything he lacks, well he makes up in denial … He needs some cool tunes, not just any will suffice/ but they didn’t have Ice Cube, so he bought Vanilla Ice.” But much unlike Robert Matthew Van Winkle – aka Vanilla Ice – Smith could never be accused of taking himself too seriously, as is evidenced by the laughable music video for “Miami,” a hit from his 1997 release, BIG WILLIE STYLE.
By “laughable,” I don’t mean the kind where you’re laughing AT – it’s the kind you laugh WITH. With a glorious smile broad as his shoulders, Smith is practically busting a chiseled gut through the whole thing. He knows how absurdly, comically hedonistic the song is, and he knows that you know too. So he has fun with it. Gets jiggy wit it, if you will.
The guilty pleasure of this song has as much to do with enjoying Smith’s nearly tongue-in-cheek approach as it does with the (I’m sorry to admit) overall catchiness of it. Lyrics like “Ladies half-dressed, fully equipped/ And they be screaming out, ‘Will we loved your last hit!'” may be absolutely preposterous and vaguely offensive, but it’s a song made for driving with friends as resigned to their horrible taste in music and as in love with Will Smith as you are. Ay, papi.