Tales from MVT: “Welcome to (Amish) Paradise” by Jonah Ray

Tales from MVT is a regularly-occurring series of blog posts where I choose one of the videos from our Music Video Theatre sessions and write about it. Music Video Theatre has become one of the most fun and enriching experiences of my current life, and for a multitude of reasons, has sparked abundant creativity. It serves as the inspiration for this series of silly little blog posts.

Song: “Welcome to (Amish) Paradise”
Artist: Jonah Ray
Director: Unknown
Appeared in: MVT Vol. 2
Chosen by: Jason


When you watch a lot of music videos, you end up down some weird rabbit holes. Some are easy to explain like the night I thought to myself, “Huh, I can’t remember what the music videos of the Goo Goo Dolls were like. Let’s watch those!” PSA: They mostly suck. It’s a lotta shots of heartthrob lead singer Johnny Rzeznik smoldering into the camera while singing his heartfelt dick poems intercut with b-roll of some nebulous fight a blandly good-looking couple is having. It’s fine, but amounts to a pretty dull plate of empty calories set to agreeable, mainstream 90s rock music.

I don’t know exactly how Jason found the video of comedian/musician Jonah Ray doing a pop punk cover of Weird Al Yankovic’s “Amish Paradise,” itself a parody of the iconic Coolio song “Gangsta’s Paradise,” but I’ve watched enough of these things (and deeply share a sensibility with Jason) where reasoning it out isn’t hard. When you describe exactly what this song is, it becomes some real through-the-looking-glass shit, though. An earnest, stylistically different cover of a very funny parody is like an assignment on postmodernism in some communication studies undergrad course or a shining example of a term Patton Oswalt coined in 2010 called ETEWAF.

That’s how I feel about this song above the neck, and make no mistake, thinking about this shit in those terms is my own personal brand of catnip. Below the neck, this video just makes me happy. Jonah Ray busts through the front door of a house strumming his guitar where there’s a party already underway and the rest of his band is situated on an ad hoc stage rocking out. It’s extremely unsubtle in the best way possible.

The video is herky-jerky in a way that makes it look like stop motion. I couldn’t figure out how they achieved the effect and was sort of low-key wowed by it, but Jeff, bottom lining this thing in a way I didn’t expect, flatly blurted out, “They probably just took some frames out.”

Oh. Right. Thanks for ruining the magic for me, Scorsese.

It’s possible this entire setup belongs to my favorite genre of things: Things That Should Be Too Stupid To Exist. It’s also possible that I like it because Jonah Ray reminds me of my friend Braden. The point is, nothing about this should work, yet it sits comfortably as one of my favorite videos. The video is fun, the arrangement is propulsive and the chorus is shockingly anthemic.

One of the purest joys of MVT is in the knowledge that people you’ve known for years can surprise you by bringing you a trinket, a gift, a memento that you never would have found on your own, but that now sits as part of a cherished mental collection. This entire series I write is a testimonial to that fact, and the videos I write about in specific are those trinkets. Every single person who has participated in MVT has contributed to my own mental collection.

As I write this, I’m waiting on one last list for the next iteration of MVT. The suspense is killing me because I’m the one who gets to see the shit first and put it in an order. The days I get to do that are among my most favorite. And I like to do it well in advance of when we convene so I can do my best to forget as much of it as possible and re-experience it as fresh as I can. Which, now that I think about it…

I take the music videos created by artists, curated into a selected list by my friends and then sent to me, and arrange them into a new playback order cultivated for (hopefully) maximum vibe into a brand new pop culture artifact.

Apparently Jonah Ray isn’t the only one doing some through-the-looking-glass postmodern shit here.

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